First published in 1959, when America's misadventure in Korea was over and its intervention in Vietnam was hardly a twinkle in John F. Kennedy's eye, ''Starship Troopers'' tells of the education of a naïve young man who enlists in a futuristic infantry unit. Raised by his father to believe that the practice of war is obsolete, the immature soldier -- and, by extension, the reader -- is instructed through a series of deep space combat missions that war is not only unavoidable, it is vital and even noble. While peace, Heinlein writes, is merely ''a condition in which no civilian pays any attention to military casualties,'' war is what wins man his so-called unalienable rights and secures his liberty. The practice of war is as natural as voting; both are fundamental applications of force, ''naked and raw, the Power of the Rods and the Ax.''
From here the book starts to get a little scary. Frame it as a cautionary tale if it helps you sleep better, but to a contemporary reader it is almost impossible to interpret the novel as anything other than an endorsement of fascism, from an era when the f-word wasn't just a pejorative suffix to be attached to any philosophy you disagreed with. Taken literally -- and there is no indication that Heinlein meant otherwise -- ''Starship Troopers'' might be the least enticing recruitment tool since ''Billy Budd.''
Now, it's entirely possible he only saw the movie, and never read the book. But you would think a NY Times writer would be better than that. Regardless, in the book, Earth is attacked by war-mongering aliens, and fights back. The book documents the fighting experience of a junior soldier. What would the writer prefer to have happened instead of war? That we surrender and all die? Ridiculous.
And calling Heinlein a fascist shows so much ignorance. Heinlein was as anti-auhoritarian as you can get.