Tuesday, March 25, 2008


I agree with Glenn that the anti-war left is badly underrepresented in the mainstream media discussion of the war. But I think his criticism of George Packer's inclusion on the Charlie Rose show is wrong. (Yes: In a perfect world Jim Henley would not only guest on Rose's show but he'd host it, too.)

Packer was undoubtedly a liberal hawk who, quite unforgivably, attributed at least some of his support for war to his disgust with the antiwar movement. But for years now, he's been a forceful, exceptional and high-profile critic of the war. This article alone, about the Iraqis who helped the U.S. and then received no help, is of apiece with Packer's writing at least since Assassins' Gate: informed, humane, apologetic. I'm not sure if, without Packer's reporting, Iraqi refugees would be as broadly discussed as it is.

Packer's work amounts to, I think, a penance. That it happens to be performed from his perch at The New Yorker, with its million readers, is not insignificant. As Arlo Guthrie once said, "If you want to end war and stuff you got to sing loud."

So, if the ultimate goal is to end the damn war -- which Packer's writing helped start but might also help extinguish -- why not let him do so? I understand the reluctance to give him a platform, on account of his initial views. But I'm also cognizant that, for the last seven years, taking a zero-sum view has wrought only misery. "If you weren't initially against the war, then you have no place in the discourse" sounds an awful lot, to my ears, like "You're other with us, or against us."

I agree with Glenn's colleague, Gary Kamiya:
In the end, however, Packer's support for the war, and his failure to engage with the most compelling arguments against it, fade in comparison to his achievements.

Finally, if Rose is talking to Richard Perle and Fred Kagan, then surely Packer, despite his past views, is comfortably on "the other side." Is this really debatable?

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