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Post An Interview (and Lunch) with George Packer
Created by John Eipper on 10/16/19 3:02 AM

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An Interview (and Lunch) with George Packer (Harry Papasotiriou, Greece, 10/16/19 3:02 am)

To answer Enrique Torner (October 15th), George Packer interviewed me during the 2004 Athens Olympics for an article published by the New Yorker (the only time I have been mentioned in that magazine, as far as I know). I invited him to lunch at my place, so I got to know him somewhat.

I have read two of his books. The Assassins Gate is a very good book on the early phase of the Iraq War of 2003, with much on-the-ground reporting from Iraq.

Blood of the Liberals is a collective biography of his family going back to his grandparents' generation and tying it with major themes in American politics. There is a Stanford angle. His father was a Stanford professor who served as vice provost in the late 1960s when anti-Vietnam demonstrators caused much damage on campus. As a result, or so George Packer maintains, he had a crippling stroke and later committed suicide.

JE comments:  I found the link to the 2004 New Yorker piece--the WAIS Effect again!  Harry, would you still describe Greece as the most anti-American nation in Europe?


Our much-missed colleague Gene Franklin referred to "the late Professor Packer" in this October 2006 post.  The topic was international sanctions.  Thirteen years later we're still talking about sanctions:


Herbert L. Packer was only 47 when he committed suicide a few years after the paralyzing stroke:


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  • In Greece, Anti-Americanism has been Replaced by Anti-Germanism (Harry Papasotiriou, Greece 10/17/19 3:49 AM)
    John E asked whether I would still describe Greece as the most anti-American nation in Europe, as I had claimed in a 2004 New Yorker piece by George Packer.

    In fact, Germany replaced the United States as the most antipathetic nation among Greeks in the years of the Greek crisis. Under the Radical Left and Nationalistic Right coalition government of 2015-2019, US-Greek relations became better than probably ever before, in spite of the anti-American past of both parties. The United States supported the remaining of Greece in the euro and seems to have been instrumental in bringing this about against the desires of the German Finance Minister Schaeuble at the height of the Greek crisis.

    More recently under both Obama and Trump, we have witnessed growing military cooperation between Greece and the United States, in large part because Erdogan's Turkey has become an unreliable ally. The United States joined the Greece-Israel-Cyprus East Med collaboration, making the formula 3 plus 1. Pompeo's highly successful visit in Athens two weeks ago lasted for several days without any significant hostile demonstration, unthinkable as late as even ten years ago.

    Attached is a not very good photo from Pompeo's public speech in Athens (I was present).

    JE comments:  See below.  Harry, did Pompeo have anything new or interesting to say?  If my chronology is correct, the visit preceded the Trump bombshell in northern Syria.  I'm curious if Pompeo knew what Trump was about to do.

    What's the word in Greece about Erdogan's offensive against the Kurds?  Is it outrage, or relief that an age-old enemy is bleeding himself elsewhere?  Some pundits are predicting that Turkey will be expelled from NATO.  I doubt this will happen, but would such a scenario actually benefit Greece?

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  • Antiwar Protests: Then and Now (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 10/17/19 8:12 AM)
    Speaking of the anti-Vietnam war protests at Stanford and elsewhere, I assume that probably some US WAISers participated in these protests in the late 1960s and early '70s.

    By now I wonder if they have changed their minds about their attitudes, considering the following developments.

    At that time the Vietnam war was in defense of an ally attacked mainly by communist forces.

    My favorite actress Jane Fonda even went to the other side of the front to show support for the enemy.

    She should have been jailed for treason. Instead she was arrested on fake accusations of drug trafficking.

    After the Vietnam war we had many other wars, silly but devastating with many refugees arriving in Italy.

    The Empire classified these wars as humanitarian, to bring democracy and so on. In reality they were only self-defeating regime-change wars and no big protest has been seen.

    In reference to betraying an ally, we should address the situation of the Kurds. The US forces have been ordered to leave in a hurry. At least one of their bases has remained intact, with tents with air conditioning and even some personal effects. These are a nice present for the new Russian occupiers.

    JE comments:  Eugenio Battaglia raises an uncomfortable question:  is there any difference between US involvement in Vietnam then...and Syria now?  More uncomfortably, is the liberal outrage at Trump for abandoning our Kurdish allies hypocritical, given their correligionists' demands 50 years ago to abandon the South Vietnamese?

    So--will the Russians have nice new quarters?  I have heard about US forces bombing some of the abandoned facilities.

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