Note: You might want to read the Starship troopers node for some contextualization.

The following information is directly from Heinlein's essay on the subject, beginning on page 396 of 1:

Robert Heinlein began writing Starship Troopers in April 1958, in the middle of writing Stranger in a Strange Land, which likely achieved the widest left-wing acclaim of all his novels. He describes his immediate motivation as being President Eisenhower's cancellation of US nuclear testing, without requiring mutual US-Soviet inspections. Heinlein's reasons for disapproving of this decision, along with much of the rest of the United States' post-war foreign policy, is detailed in the essay 'Who are the Heirs of Patrick Henry?", also included in 1.

Here are some points, taken directly from the old man, relevant to the discussion above:

"1. 'Veteran' does not mean in English dictionaries or in this novel solely a person who has served in military forces. I concede that in commonest usage today it means a war veteran... but no one hesitates to speak of a veteran firefighter or veteran schoolteacher. In STARSHIP TROOPERS it is stated flatly and more than once that nineteen out of twenty veterans are not military veterans. Instead, 95% of voters are what we call today "former members of the federal civil service."

Addendum: The volunteer is not given a choice. He/She can't win a franchise by volunteering for what we call civil service. He volunteers...then for two years plus-or-minus he goes where he is sent and does what he is told to do. If he is young, male and healthy, he may wind up as cannon fodder. But there are long chances against it.

2.He/she can resign at any time other than during combat -i.e. 100% of the time for 19 out of 20, 99% of the time for those in the military branches of federal service.

3.There is
no conscription. (I am opposed to conscription for any reason at any time, war or peace, and have said so repeatedly in fiction, in nonfiction, from platforms, and in angry sessions in think tanks. I was sworn in first in 1923, and have not been off the hook since that time. My principal pride in my family is that I know of not one in over two centuries who was drafted; they all volunteered. But the draft is involuntary servitude, immoral, and unconstitutional no matter what the Supreme Court says.)

4.Criticism: "The government in STARSHIP TROOPERS is militaristic." "Militaristic" is the adjective for the noun "militarism", a word of several definitions but not one of them can be correctly applied to the government described in this novel. No military or civil servant can vote or hold office until after he is discharged and is again a civilian. The military tend to be despised by most civilians and this is made explicit. A career military man is most unlikely to ever vote or hold office; he is likely to be dead- and if he does live through it, he'll vote for the first time at 40 or older."

"That book glorifies the military!" Now we are getting somewhere. It does indeed. Specifically the P.B.I., the Poor Bloody Infantry, the mudfoot who places his frail body between his loved home and the war's desolation- but is rarely appreciated... The H-bomb did not abolish the infantryman; it made him essential...and he has the toughest job of all and should be honored. Glorify the military? Would I have picked it for my profession and stayed on the rolls the past 56 years were I not proud of it?" I think I know what offends most of my critics the most about STARSHIP TROOPERS: It is the dismaying idea that a voice in governing the state should be earned instead of being handed to anyone who is 18 years old and has a body temperature near 37C."

...He goes on to mention that the founding fathers of the United States never intended a universal franchise, and while he concedes that the specifics of non-universality have often resulted in grave injustices, perhaps the baby should not be thrown out with the bathwater. He goes on to suggest a number of ways for improving the quality of the electorate, some more serious then others. For example, he suggests that, despite the promises of the suffragettes, we have not since seen a significant improvement in government. So perhaps we did not go far enough: disenfranchise men, for the next 1.5 centuries anyway. After all, women are more pragmatic; "Biology forces it on them." 1

Between the book and this elucidation, I think at worst you could call Heinlein’s ideas on government naive… in the sense that the results of the described system would be different then shown in the book… And I’d personally hesitate to call someone with as much experience as Heinlein naive, at least without a detailed analytic argument... which would undoubtably have taken hesitation to produce.

All in all this is a good read and is worth a look for anyone sufficiently interested. In fact, there's a lot of worthwhile non-fiction material in Expanded Universe, including details on his 1960 trip to the Soviet Union. If nothing else it will show that if you believe some of Heinlein's opinions to be far-right or fascist, he at least doesn’t hold them blindly.

From reading the book and the comments above, I don't really see how the book could be satire (which I know at least some people have claimed somewhere on e2)... and most of what DejaMorgana says about the book seems pretty spot-on. Personally I think the movie is obviously satirical (one major difference among many), although this says nothing about whether or not the movie is any good.

My opinion of the movie laregely parellels Codger's, although I would agree that there is some extensive room for interpretation in the movie... for example, there is assuredly an interesting (if dubious) case to be made that most of the important military blunders in the movie were intentional stagings. Anyway, I loved both the movie and the book... I just don't see any significant similarity between them.

Robert A. Heinlein
Expanded Universe
Ace Books 1980

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