Has the world gone crazy? The onslaught of news, and this issue of NEWSWEEK, might well leave that impression. From the escalating catastrophe in Japan to the Rasputin-like resurrection in Libya of the “mad dog” of the Middle East, international mayhem increases at every turn. We have in this issue some extraordinary writers who can think as well as react. Paul Theroux’s ode to the soul of Japan, a country he knows so well, upends many entrenched perceptions about the Japanese. Niall Ferguson writes about the toll the West’s dithering has taken on the Libyan people. And the chronicler of epic disasters, Simon Winchester, discusses the hubris that propels us to build cities on fault lines.
Meanwhile, here in America, there are some god-awful challenges too. NEWSWEEK polled 1,000 citizens of this country to see if they could pass the Citizenship Test. The result suggested an unacceptable state of ignorance. And the schools are not helping us much, according to historian Diane Ravitch, who has withering things to say about this administration’s much-hyped efforts to reform education policy.
By the way, one more sign of a new era at NEWSWEEK: more than 20 years ago, this magazine put George H.W. Bush on its cover with a description that his son, the future president, was still raging hot about in his memoir last year. Our profile of Bush 41 sheds some new light on why NEWSWEEK may have been just a bit wrong about him after all.