Iraq disappeared from the front pages with shocking abruptness, but the whole world is still reeling from the momentous events of early 2003. The reconstruction of Iraq, almost as much as the invasion itself, removes any lingering doubt: the post-cold war hiatus has been left behind and we are entering a new era in global politics. The end of any notion of balance in international affairs-at least for now-is unsettling. It also raises fundamental questions about power. America’s success in the world is, in part, the product of its belief that power must be tamed, separated, tied down and parcelled out. The idea of unbalanced power-either domestically or internationally-is un-American. Prospect will, over the coming months, examine how America and the rest of us should react to the new circumstances-Dominic Lieven is first off the blocks with a tour d’horizon of the idea of empire and what the future might bring for a US imperium. Also in this issue is Christopher Tugendhat on the lessons to be drawn from the events of 100 years ago when Theodore Roosevelt first turned the US into a hyperpower in its own western hemisphere.
We will continue to report progress within Iraq itself and scour the recent past for lessons in effective nation-building. One unpleasant surprise of the first few postwar weeks has been the depth of violent anomie in parts of Iraq. Some disorder was to be expected, but the persistent looting of hospitals and other parts of the welfare infrastructure suggests a new brutalisation rule for regime-changers to note: the greater the repression the greater the self-inflicted damage when it is lifted.
This issue has a higher domestic content than for some months-there is more about low-level violence on the streets of London than Baghdad. Our cover story is an insider’s perspective on some of the failings of the criminal justice system. It does not pretend to neutrality and we welcome replies from other perspectives. We also revisit the private/state school debate, which has re-emerged in new form since the arrival of a Labour government in an age when abolition of private schools is unthinkable. How can the damage to equality of opportunity be minimised or compensated for in ways other than abolition?
For those not too mathematically challenged to tell a median from a mean (see Harvey Cole on page 13), Ian Stewart provides his monthly puzzle. And watch out…