The death of author Norman Mailer stills an eloquent voice in defense of the old America — the pre-9/11, pre-neocon -dominated America, which disdained the idea of empire.Â During the Vietnam war,Â whilst in attendance atÂ Truman Capote’s famous “Black and White Ball,” he went up to McGeorge Bundy, Lyndon Johnson’s foreign policy advisor, and demanded that he step outside so they could settle accounts like two gentlemen. Here’sÂ anÂ excerpt fromÂ hisÂ remarkably prescient 2003Â op ed:
“There is a subtext to what the Bushites are doing as they prepare for war in Iraq. My hypothesis is that President George W. Bush and many conservatives have come to the conclusion that the only way they can save America and get if off its present downslope is to become a regime with a greater military presence and drive toward empire. My fear is that Americans might lose their democracy in the process.
” … Iraq is the excuse for moving in an imperial direction. War with Iraq, as they originally conceived it, would be a quick, dramatic step that would enable them to control the Near East as a powerful base – not least because of the oil there, as well as the water supplies from the Tigris and Euphrates rivers – to build a world empire.”
HeÂ elaborated on his view of the US as a developing world empire in a fascinating interview with the editors of The American Conservative, in which he explains why he called himselfÂ a “left-conservative. Here’s aÂ fascinating snippet:Â
“There is just this kind of mad-eyed mystique in Americans: the idea that we Americans can do anything. So, say flag conservatives, we will be able to handle what comes. Our know-how, our can-do, will dominate all obstacles. They truly believe America is not only fit to run the world but that it must run the world. Otherwise, we will lose ourselves. If there is not a new seriousness in American affairs, the country is going to go down the drain. That, I am fully ready to speculate, is the subtext beneath the Iraqi subtext, and they may not even be wholly aware of it themselves, not all of them.”Â
And here’s one for the road: “The White Man Unburdened,” his 2003 antiwar essay in the New York Review of Books.