Presented by Lapham's Quarterly and the Institute for the Future of the Book

About this project

Last month, Lapham’s Quarterly, a new journal of history, and the Institute for the Future of the Book published an online edition of the Iraq Study Group Report in an innovative format designed to gather annotations and commentary from a network of invited readers including Howard Zinn, Frances Fitzgerald, Gary Hart and many others. The result has been a report far more informative than the one distributed to the members of Congress and the major news media–a lively exchange of wit and insight cutting through the opacity and equivocal language of the Baker-Hamilton opus.

While that discussion continues to develop in the Report’s margins, it is now joined by a companion text: the transcript and video of President Bush’s address to the nation on January 10th outlining his new strategy for Iraq. To these two documents invited readers and other interested members of the public can continue to append their comments, criticisms and clarifications, “at liberty to find,” in Lewis Lapham’s words, “‘the way forward’ in or out of Iraq, back to the future or across the Potomac and into the trees.”

Together these two publications comprise Operation Iraqi Quagmire, a journalistic experiment and a gesture toward a new way of handling public documents in a networked democracy.

A note on participation

This publication is an editorial experiment. In the weeks prior to President Bush’s address to the nation on January 10th, 2007, the notes and commentaries in the ISG Report consisted only of those from the respondents solicited by Lapham’s Quarterly. At this point the discussion has been opened to the public by way of a short review process. [apply here to join the conversation]

About Lapham’s Quarterly

Forthcoming in the spring of 2007, Lapham’s Quarterly is a new publication that sets the story of the past in the frame of the present, opens the door of history behind the events in the news. Set up in the form of a high quality paperback book–224 pages, perfect binding, four color illustration–Lapham’s Quarterly makes the assumption that accurate observations of the human predicament don’t become obsolete, and that although history doesn’t repeat itself, it rhymes. That was now, and this is then.

Four times a year the editors find a topic prominent in the headlines–foreign war, scientific discovery, financial panic, technological change, belief in miracles–and within the focus of that topic they assemble a set of fifty or sixty texts–expository narrative and literary commentary as well as letters, diaries, speeches, bills of lading, writs of execution–that pass the test of time. Among the contributors, the reader is likely to find Thucydides, Caesar, St. Augustine and William Shakespeare, as well as Ibn Khaldun, Casanova, and Benjamin Franklin. [read more]

About the Institute for the Future of the Book

Based in Brooklyn, NY and connected to the Annenberg Center for Communication at USC, the Institute for the Future of the Book is a small experimental collective dedicated to inventing new forms of publishing for the network age. The Institute is currently working with Lewis Lapham and his staff to develop an innovative Web component for Lapham’s Quarterly.

Operation Iraqi Quagmire (President Bush’s Address to the Nation and the Baker-Hamilton Report) is an experiment along the way. The form in which these texts are presented is an early prototype of a new style of Internet document that puts the conversation of readers on equal footing with the text. For more on the ideas and experiments that have informed this project, visit the Institute’s website and the if:book blog.