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Why Are We at War? Paperback – April 8, 2003

3.5 out of 5 stars 25 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


Praise for Why Are We at War?
“We’re overloaded with information these days, some of it possibly true. Mailer offers a provocative—and persuasive—cultural and intellectual frame.”Newsweek
“[Mailer] still has the stamina to churn out hard-hitting criticism.”Los Angeles Times
“Penetrating . . . There’s plenty of irreverent wit and fresh thinking on display.”San Francisco Chronicle
“Eloquent . . . thoughtful . . . Why Are We at War? pulls no punches.”Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Praise for Norman Mailer
“[Norman Mailer] loomed over American letters longer and larger than any other writer of his generation.”The New York Times
“A writer of the greatest and most reckless talent.”The New Yorker
“Mailer is indispensable, an American treasure.”The Washington Post
“A devastatingly alive and original creative mind.”Life
“Mailer is fierce, courageous, and reckless and nearly everything he writes has sections of headlong brilliance.”The New York Review of Books
“The largest mind and imagination [in modern] American literature . . . Unlike just about every American writer since Henry James, Mailer has managed to grow and become richer in wisdom with each new book.”Chicago Tribune
“Mailer is a master of his craft. His language carries you through the story like a leaf on a stream.”The Cincinnati Post

From the Inside Flap

"Because democracy is noble, it is always endangered. Nobility, indeed, is always in danger. Democracy is perishable. I think the natural government for most people, given the uglier depths of human nature, is fascism. Fascism is more of a natural state than democracy. To assume blithely that we can export democracy into any country we choose can serve paradoxically to encourage more fascism at home and abroad."--from Why Are We at War?
Why Are We at War? is an explosive argument about George W. Bush and his quest for empire. Norman Mailer, one of the greatest authors of our time, lays bare the White House's position on why war in Iraq is necessary and justified. By scrutinizing the administration's words and actions leading up to the current crisis, Mailer carefully builds his case that Bush is pursuing war not in the name of security or anti-terrorism or human rights but in an undeclared yet fully realized ambition of global empire.
Mailer unleashes his trademark moral rigor on an administration he believes is recklessly endangering our very notion of freedom and democracy. For more than fifty years, in classic works of both fiction and nonfiction, Mailer has persistently exposed the folly of the powerful and the mighty. Beginning with his debut masterpiece, The Naked and the Dead," Mailer has repeatedly told the truth about war and why men fight. Why Are We at War?" returns Mailer to the subject he knows better than any other writer in America today: the gravity of the battlefield and the grand hubris of the politicians who send soldiers there to die.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 126 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks; 1st edition (April 8, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812971116
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812971118
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.3 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #383,073 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Ted Burke on April 10, 2003
Format: Paperback
In a sharp examination of American mood and motive in the post 9/11 world, Mailer uncovers the alarming drift in the Bush Administration's global response to terrorist dangers. With the failure to either kill or capture bin Ladin, he argues, the White House has expanded the perimeters of its moral imperative without clear or credible reasoning.These are the folks Mailer refers to as "flag conservatives, neoconservatives by another name, for whom the achieving of an intractable agenda by any method of deceit, duplicity or force is acceptable, even at the sacrifice of rights and the destruction of democratic processes.

Mailer sees empire building as the be-all in an undisclosed agenda behind the Iraqi war. The erosion of our cherished democracy and rights is the biggest risk of our current crisis. Mailer writes surely and without a wasted word or metaphor, inspecting the roots of American need to have a Great Struggle of any kind in order to have some measure of surety and direction in an era that's become improbably complex, and punctures the sentimentalized ideas that we can establish democratic institutions in a region and amongst a culture that resists such fantasies. This is the Mailer we expect: provocative, original, morally rigorous.
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Format: Paperback
This slim volume, consisting mainly of some of Mailer's conversations and speeches after 9-11 and prior to the second Gulf War, gives us a disturbing answer to the cover's question that more than rings of truth.
You will have to read the book to understand why Mailer answers as he does. But as you might suspect, Mailer's answer is simply that our war on Iraq is motivated by a desire by many in the Bush administration to extend American influence directly, through military action, all across the globe. In the absence of another super-power to keep us at bay, as the Soviets did through the eighties, many now in power feel that there is no reason that America shouldn't spread its influence across the globe, that in fact it is our right, our duty, our God-given purpose, to do so.
The implication that America is edging closer to empire, similar to Rome, is not unique or necessarily original to Mailer. What Mailer does, however, is shed a great deal of light on why that theory makes sense, and why such a direction for America is a dangerous and potentially fatal path.
This book appeared in print just prior to the actual declaration of war against Iraq, and I doubt that many Americans gave it much credence. In light of the new revelations, being made by our own Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz no less, of what really motivated our war in Iraq, I highly recommend that Americans read this book now and take the time to ask the current question, "Why Were We At War?"
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Format: Paperback
I mean not to trivialize this inciteful book in any way by this title, rather I want to express my surprise and profound admiration for an author far more widely known for his novels than his political commentary for producing a book that has assembled the dispirit facts surrounding America's ridiculous attack on Iraq.
On pages 51,52 and 53 Mailer illuminates clearly the core reason for this attack: he writes that at root, America wants
fundamentaly to turn the clock back-to return America to a morally absolute, Christian society and the current government believes by making America into a new Roman Empire these ideals will come to fruition.
As an old American who spent too long in the beast's belly, I completely agree with Mailer. His eblucidation of America's reasons for its current foreign policy fit perfectly with all I remember from an even more innocent America many years ago-how much more true his insights are now on the footsteps of the new millennium. He writes on page 52, "Once we become a twenty first-century embodiment of the old Roman Empire, moral reform can stride right back into the picture".
There have been mumerous reasons put forward for this terrible Iraqi attack: oil, Israel, vengence, domestic politics but I feel that Mailer's insightful analysis is the best. He readily admits that he believes that the players at the top of Bush's government don't fully realize why they are doing what they're doing-they are unthinkingly pushing a religiously conservative barrel but not fully understanding why.
A hugely thoughtful book-read it and decide for yourself.
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Format: Paperback
Norman Mailer has been a very public intellectual since "The Naked and the Dead", the best novel to come out of WWII, was published when he was twenty-five. He has spent a lifetime on the national stage, so there is some validity to the charge that his ego is immense. He also has a lot to say and what he says is worth listening to. "Why Are We at War?", thinner than most Mailer, shows all the Mailerian verbal pyrotechnics and adds to the debate that still rages a year after the United States invaded Iraq.
Mr. Mailer is, beyond anything, an artist. "The Naked and the Dead" may be a flawed masterpiece, but a masterpiece it is. There have been fictional failures, like "Barbary Shore", and "The Gospel According to the Son", but Mailer's fiction has captured his times and has secured his position in American literature. Mailer is also a gifted essayist and journalist. He is, whether he likes the label or not, one of the original "New Journalists", a writer like Tom Wolfe, Hunter Thompson, John Sack (and an endless parade of vaguely talented imitators) who makes himself a part of the story. "The Executioner's Song", about the first execution in the United States after the Supreme Court resurrected capital punishment in the 1970's after its brief legal demise, and "The Armies of the Night", about the anti-war march on the Pentagon in 1967, are as good as that genre gets. "Why Are We at War?" is only a welterweight contender next to that pair of heavyweight champions but the writing is the same. There are also similarities to Mailer's brilliant and unique novel "Why Are We in Vietnam?".
"Malignant and bristling with dots" is how Mailer once described TV.
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