This issue of the Middle East Quarterly is the last one I am editing; Martin Kramer, the distinguished historian and specialist on Islam takes over as editor starting with the Winter 2002 issue.
Writing this farewell note is bittersweet: while delighted to recruit Mr. Kramer, I shall miss the Quarterly's editorial process, which has been a mainstay of my life since 1993. I am leaving the editorship only because the Middle East Forum, the Quarterly's sponsoring organization, has grown to the point that I, its director, have to cut back on some activities. I will move over to serve as the journal's publisher, assuming this task from Albert J. Wood, who has so capably filled this position since the journal's inception and who will continue to be closely associated with the journal. In addition, I will help with odd jobs around the Quarterly, including the book reviews and some interviews. Patrick Clawson will continue as senior editor and Judy Goodrobb as managing editor.
Attentive readers of the Quarterly might note that the search for a new editor was announced in the journal's March 1999 issue; it has thus taken us over two years to find the right person for the job. In that ad, we described our ideal candidate (someone deeply immersed in the Middle East, conversant with its languages, familiar with current policy issues, in agreement with the journal's principles, and with a fine sense of English prose), then we looked and looked. The wait was long but it was rewarded.
The Introduction to the first issue of the Quarterly justified the appearance of yet another quarterly on the Middle East by promising we would offer a point of view fundamentally dissimilar to those found in existing specialized periodicals. Whereas "they reject to varying degrees the views of most Americans and the enduring policies of the U.S. government over a dozen administrations," we pledged to provide analyses consonant with that majority view. Our readers will judge if this goal has been achieved; as editor, I can report that our editorial process has always included as a central consideration whether an article might be published by one of our sister-journals, heavily favoring those that would not be.
At the outset, frankly, we did wonder if the pool of authors who would meet this criterion would be large enough to fill our pages on a sustained basis. Thirty-two issues later, I can happily report that we have corresponded with 750 authors and potential authors and never had a problem finding materials. Clearly, our viewpoint, though minoritarian among specialists, does have a constituency.
And not just among writers; on the readership side too, things have gone well. The Quarterly's circulation hovers around 3,000 and goes to an important readership in some 50 countries. We attract some thousand hits a day at our website, www.MEForum.org, most of them referenced to the Quarterly.
Mention of our website brings to mind that the Internet was almost unknown when we began publication in early 1994; its emergence has affected the MEQ in innumerable ways: submissions come by e-mail, fact-checking takes place online, footnotes contain URLs, and our new editor has not yet set foot in our Philadelphia offices and probably will never need to.
Two other major developments since 1994 also come to mind. One concerns the frittering away of America's powerful position in the Middle East. The Soviet collapse and the victory over Iraq provided the basis of the third "American moment" of the twentieth century, and its glow could still be felt when we started publication. Now - at a time when Iraq's power grows, Israel's existence is ever more aggressively challenged, weapons of mass destruction proliferate, and oil prices soar - that sense of American opportunity is gone. For a journal like this one, with hopes to help formulate U.S. policy, these grim circumstances mean we need all the more to offer creative and realistic ideas.
The other change to note here is the rise to political prominence of Middle Easterners living in the West. Muslim immigrants especially are moving to the West in substantial numbers even as a significant numbers of Westerners convert to Islam. Exact numbers are hard to come by but the rapid increase in population is evident: in France, one of our authors has noted, the Muslim community has increased about 40-fold since 1945, and roughly the same is true in the United States. Nor is there any doubt that immigration, high birth rates, and conversions will cause those numbers to continue to grow. The West, by virtue of its freedoms, has attracted some of the Muslim world's most dynamic figures, from agnostic novelists to Islamist activists, and we plan to cover their evolution and influence, both in the home countries and in the West itself. Although titled the Middle East Quarterly, we believe this journal can usefully contribute to the understanding of these new populations and the issues they raise.