George Packer: How Do We Wrap Our Arms Around America?

As the country reeled under the weight of one shock after another—first the pandemic, then levels of mass unemployment not seen since the Great Depression, and most recently an unprecedented wave of protests against racism and police brutality—the June issue of The Atlantic magazine ran a cover story with the provocative title, “We Are Living in a Failed State.” The author was GEORGE PACKER, one of the preeminent long-form journalists writing in the US today.

His last three books—The Assassins Gate about the invasion of Iraq, The Unwinding about the economic and social transformation of America since the 1970s and Our Man, a biography of the larger than life American diplomat, Richard Holbrooke—each in its own unique way, tried to provide a window into the big challenges America has faced, both abroad and at home, over the last 25 years. In this episode, George talks with LIAQUAT AHAMED, a board member of the Sun Valley Writers Conference about where we are as a country, how we got here, and how a writer of nonfiction like him is able, using techniques drawn from the great novelists, “to wrap his arms around America.”