“Roll back the clock, and every possession of every great country started with a crime,” playwright David Mamet told The Daily Caller in a wide-ranging interview.
He was paraphrasing Balzac, by way of the first page of Mario Puzo’s Godfather, but he might as well have been quoting any of the modern writers who call themselves Mamet disciples. His new book “3 War Stories” is a trifecta of short novellas dealing with war, crime, and history in ways that avoid easy moral conclusions.
The stories deal respectively with a 19th century writer/spy (“The Redwing”), religion within the context of the American Indian Wars (“Notes on Plains Warfare”), and a peculiar crime committed against the backdrop of the start of the Israeli War of Independence. But through them all runs themes consistent to Mamet’s work since his early plays in the 1970′s: criminality, ethics, and the dysfunctional ways people treat each other in societies.
War, it could safely be said, is just the most extreme example of the casual violence that has always colored David Mamet’s world. And his views on the matter are just as complex as his work would suggest.
“You can’t write about history without writing about politics at some point. History is about movements of people,” Mamet said. ”What is criminality and what is government is a theme that runs through every history. You can even see it today with John Kerry in Vietnam. He was highly decorated for his service then he came back and decided the Vietnam War was a crime. Now he’s doing the same thing in Iran.”
Mamet, an observant Jew who believes Kerry’s recent easing of sanctions on Iran represents the Obama administration turning its back on Israel, is a rare outspoken conservative in show business, crediting the economist Milton Friedman as having helped him transform from a typical Baby Boomer liberal.
“Obama is a tyrant the same way FDR was a tyrant. He has a view of presidential power that states: the government is in control of the country and the president is in charge of the government. He’s taken an imperial view of the presidency,” Mamet said.
“I don’t think war is inherently necessary. It used to be thought that a country shouldn’t go to war unless it is absolutely necessary,” he said. “War is tragedy. The great war stories are tragedies. It’s the failure of diplomacy. “War and Peace,” “A Farewell to Arms,” “For Whom the Bell Tolls.” Those are some of the greatest tragedies.”
But in the event of tragedy, according to Mamet, compromise is off the table.