When I was young, a mantra among progressives was that America had to stop operating as global policeman. Vietnam was the signal episode of arrogant and ultimately self-defeating American overreach. But there were plenty of other cases of the U.S. government doing the bidding of oil companies and banana barons, and blithely overthrowing left-democratic governments as well as outright communists (or driving nationalist reformers into the arms of communists.)
From the Vietnam War to the Iraq War, facile and wildly inaccurate comparisons between foreign adversaries and Adolf Hitler have served the interests of politicians hell-bent on propelling the United States into war. Often, those politicians succeeded. The carnage and the endless suffering have been vast.
I caught up with Butler, shortly after he'd received the F. Scott Fitzgerald Award for Outstanding Achievement in American Literature. We talked about his views on the place of popular culture in his literary fiction, on journalists and espionage, on his cats and hobbies, and on why the genre of the thriller speaks so readily to our contemporary imagination.