As of Monday, I will no longer be a freelance journalist. I won’t be writing much, if ever, about national security issues, either. In fact, I won’t even be in national security at all.
I’ve decided to take a job as the communications officer at the Eurasia Foundation, a fantastic NGO that does education, civil society, and entrepreneur work in a part of the world I still, a decade after I began working on and occasionally living there, care very deeply about.
There are several reasons for this move, most of which do not warrant the self-regard of an entire blogpost. The gist of it is: while I consider myself skilled at analyzing national security, and though it provided the occasional rush, I was also increasingly unhappy doing it. Since going freelance, the pay has been abysmal — far below minimum wage, in fact — and the “rewards” of occasionally arguing on TV or talking to Congressional staff just did not make up the difference.
Moreover, it’s unceasingly negative. Hacks and frauds abound — and are rewarded for saying politically convenient things anyway. I’ve lost track of the number of patently untrue things people have said about the U.S., about the law, about government policy, and about me, personally (the sheer volume and viciousness of the personal attacks against me have been astonishing, and I say this having expected some form of personal attack for taking unpopular stands on some topics).
I see no compelling reason to toil in indigent fury for subhuman pay.
So it’s on to something more positive. Eurasia Foundation focuses on a region of the world I’ve cared about deeply since I moved to Kazakhstan in 2003 to teach English. I’ve remained tightly attached to affairs there, going back when I could, writing about it when I couldn’t. And moreover, they are materially improving lives there — building civil society, improving education, supporting entrepreneurship. It will be wonderful to work on something that is doing constructive good, instead of merely ripping down arguments or fending off a personal smear.
In the near term, this means I won’t be writing journalistically, at least for a while. And when I do, it will be something substantive that I care about and that I think brings value to the discussion, not the hamster wheel of daily punditry. And it means I’m going to be talking a lot more about democratic governance, economic development, and civil societies in a bunch of countries.
So as usual: stay tuned!