Why Are We at War?

Why Are We at War?

by Norman Mailer
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Why Are We at War? by Norman Mailer

Beginning with his debut masterpiece, The Naked and the Dead, Norman Mailer has repeatedly told the truth about war. Why Are We at War? returns Mailer to the gravity of the battlefield and the grand hubris of the politicians who send soldiers there to die. First published in the early days of the Iraq War, Why Are We at War? is an explosive argument about the American quest for empire that still carries weight today. Scrutinizing the Bush administration’s words and actions, Mailer unleashes his trademark moral rigor: “Because democracy is noble, it is always endangered. . . . To assume blithely that we can export democracy into any country we choose can serve paradoxically to encourage more fascism at home and abroad.”
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 Trade Paperback edition.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780812986020
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 09/17/2013
Sold by: Random House
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 128
Sales rank: 1,120,709
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

Born in 1923 in Long Branch, New Jersey, and raised in Brooklyn, New York, Norman Mailer was one of the most influential writers of the second half of the twentieth century and a leading public intellectual for nearly sixty years. He is the author of more than thirty books. The Castle in the Forest, his last novel, was his eleventh New York Times bestseller. His first novel, The Naked and the Dead, has never gone out of print. His 1968 nonfiction narrative, The Armies of the Night, won the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award. He won a second Pulitzer for The Executioner’s Song and is the only person to have won Pulitzers in both fiction and nonfiction. Five of his books were nominated for National Book Awards, and he won a lifetime achievement award from the National Book Foundation in 2005. Mr. Mailer died in 2007 in New York City.

From the Trade Paperback edition.


Provincetown, Massachusetts, and New York, New York

Date of Birth:

January 31, 1923

Date of Death:

November 10, 2007

Place of Birth:

Long Branch, New Jersey


B.S., Harvard University, 1943; Sorbonne, Paris, 1947-48

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Why Are We at War? 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I expected greater things from an author who is dubbed on the jacket as being 'one of the greatest authors of our time.' Unfortunately this book is one of the most negative pieces of garbage I¿ve read in a long time. Norman Mailer conveys to us his bitterness toward patriotism and his feelings of hatred toward all things American. Instead of critiquing these problems with an open mind and saying 'Ok, this is what we should do to fix the problem,' Mailer resigns all Americans (except himself, of course) to being materialistic, money grubbing vultures who want to conquer the entire world and make it capitalist. Mailer praises the acts of terrorists. He claims that 'most of us are wicked to a good degree.' He embarrasses victims of 9/11 by saying 'It¿s not the ones who were good fathers and good mothers that I mourn the most. It¿s the ones who came from families that were less happy' (as if any of the lives lost deserve less or more sympathy than the others.) He criticizes proud Americans who wave flags. 'The fact that we¿ve been a great democracy doesn¿t mean we will automatically be one if we keep waving the flag. It¿s ugly.' What Mailer doesn¿t comprehend is that so many people like President Bush because he gives our nation hope. This is all but lost on Mailer, who does nothing but pessimistically criticize instead of offer suggestions: 'We in the west have this habit of looking for solutions¿ There may be no solutions at this time. This may be the beginning of an international cancer we cannot cure.' According to Mailer, 'patriotism becomes the handmaiden to totalitarianism.' What Mailer does a good job of is making you feel a sense of dread. He claims that Bush is a 'bloodthirsty warmonger' and spouts absurdities like 'military presence in the middle east is a stepping stone to taking over the rest of the world.' This absolute hogwash does nothing to answer the question he imposed: Why are we at war? Mailer thinks that a few quotes from obscure sources proves his conspiracy theory that Bush/America is on a quest for world domination. Mailer suggests that we sacrifice security for democracy: 'Americans have to be willing to say at a certain point that we¿re ready to take some terrorist hits without panicking; that freedom is more important to us than security' and that we should 'learn to live with the anxiety' of terrorism. Hold up. WHAT?! Freedom may be more important to Mailer than security, but if one of my family members was killed in a terrorist attack, security would absolutely be my number one priority. Not only this, but I have a few qualms about taking political advice from an author who says that 'fascism is of a more natural state than democracy.' Mailer claims that there is a degeneration of the American society: 'The kids are getting to the point where they can¿t read, but they sure can screw.' Nice, Mailer. Real nice. The lack of confidence Mailer espouses in the American people is astounding as he talks about our 'monstrous arrogance.' He says 'we will never know just what we are fighting for' and 'we never know where our prayers are likely to go.' The only good (and I use that term loosely) thing about this book is that it is short, so you won¿t be mired in hopelessness and negativity for too long. It¿s only 100 pages of large, spaced out print, most of it dialogue.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Why Are We At War? is a collection of Mr. Mailer's musings on the state of the union post-9/11, and it's wonderfully written and intellectually engaging. Whether or not you agree with the 'liberal' angle taken in this book (I am much more conservative than Mailer) it is still well worth a read. If you're looking for hardcore evidence or 'proof' regarding the so-called war for oil you should look elsewhere. Most of Mr. Mailer's hard facts are simply borrowed from other prominent, and more exhaustive, sources. However, if you want a great discussion about how Mailer feels, and how many of us feel, in the midst of a war on a faceless enemy, then this monograph will do the trick. Much of the book is set up as a discussion with Mailer¿s close friend, and that unique approach allows the reader to enter into the discussion. Although the title poses the question of the day, Mailer¿s answers are fleeting and inconclusive. Mailer never establishes the 'reason' for the current (and ongoing) incursion, but he tackles the issue head-on. Mailer doesn¿t profess to have all of the answers, and that is the beauty of this book. Turn off the noise, and enter into an honest discussion of an issue that cannot be explained by the pundits, both liberal and conservative, feeding the public pre-packaged ¿truths.¿ None of us can honestly profess to know the true motivations behind this war, but trying to pin down reasons and motives is a laudable, if not trying, affair. Mailer takes the occasion to guide the reader through this debate with style, insight, and, at times, confusion. He¿s one of us after all.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Mailer's well written book takes a different look at the reasons behind Bush's action against the Middle East and the right wings ongoing dream of American Imperialism. This book is a refreshing look at what's going on and what the future of America globally and domestically could become if 'flag conservatives' continue unchecked
Guest More than 1 year ago
Don't be hating liberal writers here! They are here to express what THEY feel. Why do you even bother to write a review here if you hate the book so much? Your ONLY reason for disliking this book is probably purely out of your own political beliefs. just because you are a hard-core conservative and a Bush-lover doesn't mean everyone feels the same way as you.