Whether or not it will actually happen, it seems clear that America is planning its next global intervention on behalf of the new century to be in Iran. As with Iraq, the ostensible motive or pretext will be disarmament. Despite the catastrophe of the Iraqi adventure, the United States government has not wavered in its belief that the question of which countries, or rather which rulers, have the right to destroy other countries - and possibly the whole world - is one it alone must decide. 'The direst of all threats in the world's collective fear,' the narrator says halfway through Nadine Gordimer's latest novel, Get a Life, 'beyond terrorism, suicide bombings, introduction of deadly viruses, fatal chemical substances in innocent packaging, Mad Cow Disease - is "nuclear capability".' This does not mean that the US, as 'the power with a foot on everyone's doorstep', is on the side of non-proliferation, unless this suits its ambitions. Popular protest against nuclear energy is not something the industrialised world as a whole tends to support. What is a danger in Iran may be a welcome opportunity for multinational expansion - to be promoted at all costs - in the new South Africa. Uneven development, one might say. Centring her novel on these contradictions, Gordimer brings her writing firmly into the 21st century.
LRB 20 April 2006 | PDF Download