Archive - June 18, 2021

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AFGHANISTAN AT A TIME OF PEACE by Robin Varnum
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LAST BEST HOPE by George Packer (Togo) reviewed

AFGHANISTAN AT A TIME OF PEACE by Robin Varnum

  It is now difficult to imagine Afghanistan any otherwise than at war. In the early 1970s, however, when Robin Varnum  was serving there as a Peace Corps volunteer (1971–73), the country was enjoying an interlude of peace. Varnum was teaching English in a girls’ school, and since some girls were able to go to school in Afghanistan in those days, she hoped to help her students gain access to the kinds of opportunities that were available to other girls in other parts of the world. She admired the bravery of her students, and she took inspiration from the work of Dr. Khadija Akbar, the Afghan woman doctor who was running her community’s family planning clinic. Afghanistan at a Time of Peace is a memoir of Varnum’s Peace Corps experience. She was stationed in Ghazni, a small city some 85 miles southwest of Kabul, and she served there alongside Mark, . . .

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LAST BEST HOPE by George Packer (Togo) reviewed

  Speaking Truth to Both the Right and the Left by Emily Bazelon June 14, 2021 The Times Magazine • LAST BEST HOPE: America in Crisis and Renewal by George Packer THE CONSTITUTION OF KNOWLEDGE: A Defense of Truth by Jonathan Rauch Like many public intellectuals who are worth reading, George Packer and Jonathan Rauch don’t toe a predictable line in American political and intellectual debate. They despise Donald Trump and the disinformation-heavy discord he has spawned. But they don’t share all the views of progressives, either, as they’ve come to be defined in many left-leaning spaces. Packer and Rauch are here to defend the liberalism of the Enlightenment — equality and scientific rationality in an unapologetically Western-tradition sense. They see this belief system as the country’s great and unifying strength, and they’re worried about its future. Packer’s slim book, “Last Best Hope,” begins with patriotic despair. “The world’s pity has taken the place of admiration, hostility, awe, . . .

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