One of the driving forces behind the Prospect, our managing editor Jonathan Guyer, left us for Vox this year. (If you want his job, click here.) We couldnt do a Best of 2021 without showcasing not only his writing, but the foreign-policy coverage he really led.
Jonathans own work took aim at the unexplored dynamic of the revolving door and how it shapes President Bidens approach to the world. He took a critical eye to Biden foreign-policy and national-security appointees, their severely under-covered corporate backgrounds, and how personnel determines policy in insidious ways. Here are some of the standouts.
Nominally, this was about national-security adviser Jake Sullivan, but you could put this frame on practically everyone in the foreign-policy world sometimes known as the Blob. Every former policymaker in Washington is simultaneously an academic, a researcher, and an adviser to big business. This piece sums up a lot of Jonathans work at the Prospect.
Rebellion Defense was generally an unknown startup, which somehow landed multiple plum slots on the Biden transitions agency review teams, thanks to contacts inside the Pentagon and a critical benefactor, former Google CEO Eric Schmidt. This also features one of the Prospects best images of the year.
One of Jonathans best attributes involves connecting dots that few other people notice at first glance. This story is about the Biden administrations report on the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, but also the partnership of WestExec Advisors, a landing spot for much of the Biden administration foreign-policy team when Democrats were out of power, and Teneo, a global consulting firm. Teneo is intertwined on a major business project with the same Saudi government the administration was reluctant to sanction after the damning Khashoggi report.
Few reporters went beneath the surface to investigate the corporate ties of people like U.S. ambassador to China Nicholas Burns, or Mideast adviser Brett McGurk. Jonathan did this year.
He also uncovered administration officials links to an Israeli spyware group accused of hacking the data of journalists.
In 2016, a small office in the Defense Department initiated a review of its substandard database for tracking military sexual assault cases. It was an example of government coming to terms with its inadequacies and working to fix themuntil senior officials nixed the report. This deeply reported investigative piece shows the resistance at the highest levels of the Pentagon to safeguard its own troops.
Jonathan also anchored the Prospects international coverage, and in 2021 much of it focused on the end of Americas longest war. The articles he commissioned on the withdrawal from Afghanistan were original and agenda-setting.
By Emran Feroz
This striking piece blows holes in the notion of Afghanistan as the good war that saved the population from the Taliban. It forces Americans to reckon with how our presence in the country differs from our ideals.
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By Rozina Ali
This review of two books on the war on terror makes the case that the tragedy is how it was conducted legally, where the law was used to perpetuate oppression.
By Zack Kopplin
The immediate fleeing of Afghan president Ashraf Ghani with loads of cash reveals the blind spot U.S. foreign-policy officials had toward a Western-educated and -installed leader whose corruption was always visible to anyone who looked closely.
By Marya Hannun
The plight of Afghan women has been front and center in U.S. media for decades, but its complicated by complex realities on the ground, whether Afghan women needed saving even before the war, and how the presence of U.S. forces made women less safe.