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Imperial Graveyard

Samuel Moyn: Richard Holbrooke, 6 February 2020

Our Man: Richard Holbrooke and the End of the American Century 
by George Packer.
Cape, 592 pp., £25, May 2019, 978 1 910702 92 5
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... capacity for mythmaking rather than the resuscitation of the ‘liberal international order’.George Packer, arguably the most renowned American journalist of his generation, is more aware of the dangers of hagiography than most members of Holbrooke’s mourning party. He wrote a profile of him for the New Yorker in 2009, during Holbrooke’s ‘last ...

Like Ordering Pizza

Thomas Meaney: Before Kabul, 9 September 2021

... to take a while. And the American people must be patient. I’m going to be patient.President George W. Bush, 17 September 2001The Taliban regime already belongs to history.Jürgen Habermas, December 2001I have no visibility into who the bad guys are in Afghanistan or Iraq.Donald Rumsfeld, 8 September 2003I will venture a prediction. The Taliban/al-Qaida ...

Degrees of Not Knowing

Rory Stewart: Does anyone know how to govern Iraq?, 31 March 2005

What We Owe Iraq: War and the Ethics of Nation Building 
by Noah Feldman.
Princeton, 154 pp., £12.95, November 2004, 0 691 12179 6
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Blinded by the Sunlight: Surviving Abu Ghraib and Saddam’s Iraq 
by Matthew McAllester.
Harper Perennial, 304 pp., $13.95, February 2005, 0 06 058820 9
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The Fall of Baghdad 
by Jon Lee Anderson.
Little, Brown, 389 pp., £20, February 2005, 0 316 72990 6
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The Freedom: Shadows and Hallucinations in Occupied Iraq 
by Christian Parenti.
New Press, 211 pp., £12.99, December 2004, 1 56584 948 5
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... in Iraq has been high: Elizabeth Rubin for the New York Times Magazine and the New Republic, George Packer for the New Yorker, Rory McCarthy for the Guardian and James Astill for the Economist have produced great pieces. But even the most energetic analysts cannot move freely. Astill’s longest conversation with an Iraqi in Fallujah was with a man ...

The Hagiography Factory

Thomas Meaney: Arthur Schlesinger Jr, 8 February 2018

Schlesinger: The Imperial Historian 
by Richard Aldous.
Norton, 486 pp., £23.99, November 2017, 978 0 393 24470 0
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... and feminists. On his mother’s side, Schlesinger was a Mayflower Wasp who claimed descent from George Bancroft, the Michelet of American historical writing. His father was a Midwest-born social historian with a German-Jewish background, for whom the prairie populism of the turn of the century was still an animating inspiration. Arthur Senior and Elizabeth ...


Ben Lerner: On Disliking Poetry, 18 June 2015

... his 2009 inauguration – Clinton had done it twice; Kennedy had done it in 1961 – many scoffed. George Packer wondered on the New Yorker’s website: ‘Is it too late to convince the president-elect not to have a poem written for and read at his inauguration?’ He explained: ‘For many decades American poetry has been a private activity, written by ...

Why do white people like what I write?

Pankaj Mishra: Ta-Nehisi Coates, 22 February 2018

We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy 
by Ta-Nehisi Coates.
Hamish Hamilton, 367 pp., £16.99, October 2017, 978 0 241 32523 0
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... mission to bring democracy to the world’s benighted. In The Fight Is for Democracy (2003), George Packer argued that a ‘vibrant, hardheaded liberalism’ could use the American military to promote its values. The subtitle of The Good Fight (2006) by Peter Beinart, the then editor of the New Republic, insisted ‘Why Liberals – and Only ...

Flailing States

Pankaj Mishra: Anglo-America Loses its Grip, 16 July 2020

... societies in history still comes as a shock to some. In a widely circulated essay in the Atlantic, George Packer claimed that ‘every morning in the endless month of March, Americans woke up to find themselves citizens of a failed state.’ In fact, the state has been AWOL for decades, and the market has been entrusted with the tasks most societies ...

Ramadhin and Valentine

J.R. Pole, 13 October 1988

A History of West Indies Cricket 
by Michael Manley.
Deutsch, 575 pp., £17.95, May 1988, 0 233 98259 0
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Sobers: Twenty Years at the Top 
by Garfield Sobers and Brian Scovell.
Macmillan, 204 pp., £11.95, June 1988, 0 333 37267 0
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... was one of the most widely discussed public questions of the late Fifties. It is true that George Headley had been appointed to lead in two matches against England as far back as 1947 (he was unfit to play in the second of them), but no black player had thenceforth been entrusted with this socially significant responsibility. Worrell, a sensitive and ...

Day 5, Day 9, Day 16

LRB Contributors, 24 March 2022

... announced its determination to expand Nato eastwards, despite warnings by seasoned observers from George Kennan to William Burns (now Biden’s director of the CIA) that to do so would aggravate Russian security concerns. The situation escalated in February 2014 with the Washington-backed coup against Viktor Yanukovych, the gradual takeover of the Maidan ...

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