Norman Mailer: Gaining an Empire,
LOS ANGELES 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.
By downslope I'm referring not only to
the corporate scandals, the church scandals and the FBI scandals. The
country has gone kind of crazy in the eyes of conservatives. Also, kids
can't read anymore. Especially for conservatives, the culture has become
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.
The Bushites also expect to bring
democracy to the region and believe that in itself will help to diminish
terrorism. But I expect the opposite will happen: terrorists are not
impressed by democracy. They loathe it. They are fundamentalists of the
most basic kind. The more successful democracy is in the Near East - not
likely in my view - the more terrorism it will generate.
The only outstanding obstacle to the
drive toward empire in the Bushites' minds is China. Indeed, one of the
great fears in the Bush administration about America's downslope is that
the "stem studies" such as science, technology and engineering
are all faring poorly in U.S. universities. The number of American
doctorates is going down and down. But the number of Asians obtaining
doctorates in those same stem studies are increasing at a great rate.
Looking 20 years ahead, the
administration perceives that there will come a time when China will
have technology superior to America's. When that time comes, America
might well say to China that "we can work together," we will
be as the Romans to you Greeks. You will be our extraordinary,
well-cultivated slaves. But don't try to dominate us. That would be your
disaster. This is the scenario that some of the brightest
neoconservatives are thinking about. (I use Rome as a metaphor, because
metaphors are usually much closer to the truth than facts).
What has happened, of course, is that
the Bushites have run into much more opposition than they thought they
would from other countries and among the home population. It may well
end up that we won't have a war, but a new strategy to contain Iraq and
wear Saddam down. If that occurs, Bush is in terrible trouble.
My guess though, is that, like it or
not, want it or not, America is going to go to war because that is the
only solution Bush and his people can see.
The dire prospect that opens,
therefore, is that America is going to become a mega-banana republic
where the army will have more and more importance in Americans' lives.
It will be an ever greater and greater overlay on the American system.
And before it is all over, democracy, noble and delicate as it is, may
give way. My long experience with human nature - I'm 80 years old now -
suggests that it is possible that fascism, not democracy, is the natural
Indeed, democracy is the special condition - a condition we will be called upon to defend in the coming years. That will be enormously difficult because the combination of the corporation, the military and the complete investiture of the flag with mass spectator sports has set up a pre-fascistic atmosphere in America already.
This comment was adapted from remarks
Feb. 22 to the Los Angeles Institute for the Humanities and distributed
by Global Viewpoint/Tribune Media Services International.
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