H. R. McMaster: New Yorker profile cited by David Brooks as one of the best essays of the year 2006





The Sidney Awards, named for Sidney Hook, are a nice way to honor the best magazine essays of the year and to pass along a few nutritious holiday reading recommendations. But if you spend a few weeks poring over the highlights from a year’s worth of magazines, you also get a window on the spirit of the times.

And 2006, let it be said, felt to many like the year of losing ground. There was a general sense that the forces of moderation in the Middle East were losing ground to the forces of radical Shiism. (The folks at Time are crazy if they don’t name Nasrallah, Ahmadinejad and Sadr People of the Year.)

There was also a sense that we were losing ground in Iraq. One of the best magazine writers on that story, George Packer of The New Yorker, tended to profile American dissidents who were trying to change the way we fight that war.

In an April essay, “The Lesson of Tal Afar,” Packer followed Col. H. R. McMaster, who argued that the Iraq war was as much a psychological and anthropological problem as a military and political one. ...


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