After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, The New York Times became the last major metropolitan daily newspaper in the country to offer readers a side of entertainment with its news. Over seventy-five years later, readers still turn to their morning crossword puzzle, which the Times itself once called a “sinful waste” of time, for a small distraction from the stresses of the day.
Change is hard. Change is also a prerequisite for progress.
The word “inkstick” is military slang for a plain, black pen. The kind of pen you might find in your couch cushions or toss in the junk drawer under the old pill bottles and rubber bands. In the age of technology, it is an absolutely worthless piece of ephemera. But put that pen in the hand of a poet, an artist, a storyteller… suddenly, it has the power to change the world. So goes the old idiom, “The pen is mightier than the sword.”
The pen itself is worthless. But it is also accessible, proximate to us all. Give a woman nothing else in this world and somewhere along the way, if she wants to, she can still find a pen.
For many years now, foreign policy has operated without a pen. Folks who write about the world have forgotten that there are people in it. Jargony acronyms, contrived technicalities, powerpoints and 60-page papers are the norm, and policymakers wonder why they’re not getting through. Wonky issues dominate on Capitol Hill, but drive an hour north of the District and those issues fade quickly away, replaced by mouths to feed, schedules to juggle, and the simple questions, “What the hell does foreign policy have to do with me?” and “How could I possibly find the time to care?”
Making foreign policy human isn’t just about throwing out the acronyms. It’s about exploring the answers to the questions above. What does the opioid crisis have to do with chemical weapons? Why does my local police force have a tank? How is my life similar to refugees who’ve been forced to flee their homes?
Inkstick is human because it’s written by humans – humans of all ages, colors, and creeds who’d rather skip the stuffy back room and sit down for a beer.
Inkstick is foreign policy with a pen and it’s here to change the way we talk.