Publications in IR can often be quite dense, stilted, and boring. Unless you enjoy reading regression outputs and slogging through discussions of obscure theory so divorced from reality as to be risible, it is often difficult to find the motivation to dive into the literature. Fortunately, IR is a highly policy-relevant field, as it can directly influence foreign policy and military decisions. This has resulted in an enormous amount of highly accessible, non-technical work being published for policymakers and interested citizens alike. A large amount of this stuff is bullshit pushed out by biased think tanks and amateur theorists lacking any formal training, but there is also a large amount of quality writing. The difficulty is knowing where to find it. I figured, therefore, that it made sense to compile a list of some of my favorite publications that are both rigorous and accessible to a non-technical audience. This is far from exhaustive, of course, but it can hopefully serve as a good starting point for those of you who find academia too arcane and cable media too stupid.
1. Foreign Affairs – This publication provides a wonderful range of articles that cover interesting research and thinking by academics and practitioners alike. While FA does require a subscription, I think it is absolutely worth it for the smart commentary and great book reviews.
2. The Washington Quarterly – This is more like an academic journal, with longer articles that are a bit more technical and rigorous. The editor in chief (a friend of mine) is absolutely excellent, though, and the writing is reliably clear and accessible.
4. War on the Rocks – This is by far the best English language website on defense and foreign policy. WOTR articles are concise, clear, and almost always thought-provoking. The best part, though, is that they’re free! So why pay for generic analysis from the NYT or WaPo when this excellent publication exists?
5. Orbis – The Foreign Policy Research Institute’s flagship journal, this publication does an excellent job of engaging policymakers and practitioners alike. It is a bit more involved than some of my other recommendations, looking more like an academic journal than a news magazine. It is consistently interesting and provocative, though, and should definitely be part of one’s IR reading.