Atlantic's Max Fischer managed to track down Vogue senior editor Chris Knutsen to ask about the decision published Joan Buck's article about Asma Al-Assad. Fischer's full article is a must-read.
Two things are apparent from Knutsen's reply:
1. The decision to publish the article was not made because they did not think it through. They thought long and hard for "more than a year"!
2. Vogue decided to operate within the media restrictions of Syria: "we strived within those limitations to provide a balanced view of the first lady and her self-defined role as Syria's cultural ambassador."
The most telling part of the Atlantic article, though, is its exposure of the confusion in Chris Knutsen's mind:
"I asked Knutsen if he thinks Bashar al-Assad is a despot. He sighed, "Yeah. I would call him an autocrat." When I pressed him on the point, he said, "there's no freedom there," adding, "it's not as secular as we might like."
It's not apparent why Knutsen conflates secularism with freedom. What is apparent is that Knutsen, living up to the worst stereotypes of his industry, seems to have the intellectual depth of Brüno. Quelle surprise.