Response by George Packer

Response by George Packer

Jim Rule’s reference to me is hard to parse, because the language is vague, but he’s essentially saying that anyone who now warns against a swift and complete withdrawal from Iraq must be trying to justify an earlier decision to support the war. This isn’t an argument about merits, it’s about motives. As such it’s an argument no one can answer, and no one should make without solid evidence. Rule’s evidence is an article I wrote for the New York Times Magazine in December 2002.

Readers will find that it was a discussion about the pre-war debate over Iraq among liberals who supported the Balkan interventions of the 1990s.

The article listed eight arguments on each side of the debate and it profiled six liberal thinkers, who split half and half and, in a few cases, were internally conflicted. In short, the article gave roughly equal consideration to positions for and against a war. Rule’s quotations and characterizations are so misleading that I have to conclude—with this evidence—that he isn’t arguing in good faith.


George Packer is a staff writer for the New Yorker and author of the new book Interesting Times: Writings from a Turbulent Decade, which includes essays previously published in Dissent.