Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power Review

Drift 1
Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power
by Rachel Maddow
Summary: “One of my favorite ideas is, never to keep an unnecessary soldier,” Thomas Jefferson wrote in 1792. Neither Jefferson nor the other Found­ers could ever have envisioned the modern national security state, with its tens of thousands of “privateers”; its bloated Department of Homeland Security; its rust­ing nuclear weapons, ill-maintained and difficult to dismantle; and its strange fascination with an unproven counterinsurgency doctrine.

Written with bracing wit and intelligence, Rachel Maddow’s Drift argues that we’ve drifted away from America’s original ideals and become a nation weirdly at peace with perpetual war, with all the financial and human costs that entails. To understand how we’ve arrived at such a dangerous place, Maddow takes us from the Vietnam War to today’s war in Afghanistan, along the way exploring the disturbing rise of executive authority, the gradual outsourcing of our war-making capabilities to private companies, the plummeting percentage of American families whose children fight our constant wars for us, and even the changing fortunes of G.I. Joe. She offers up a fresh, unsparing appraisal of Reagan’s radical presidency. Ultimately, she shows us just how much we stand to lose by allowing the priorities of the national security state to overpower our political discourse.
Sensible yet provocative, dead serious yet seri­ously funny, Drift will reinvigorate a “loud and jangly” political debate about how, when, and where to apply America’s strength and power–and who gets to make those decisions.
Review: I gave this 4 out of 5 stars. I felt 3 was an unfair rating, so I went with 4.

It’s going to be difficult to write this review. Let me start off by talking about how I even heard about this book and why I wanted to read it.
I frequently watch The Colbert Report on Comedy Central since he is absolutely hilarious to me. I don’t care much for John Stewart, but will sometimes catch part of his show since it’s right before Colbert. I happened to catch the interview between Stewart and Maddow talking about this book. I know a little bit about Maddow, but I avoid news talk shows like the plague. I’m neither liberal nor conservative and try to kind of stay out of bipartisan issues. When Maddow talked about her book, she  mentioned a problem with the military drifting away from the rest of the country and how that has impacted us as a nation. She mentioned the insane amount of private contractors and how we as the public are largely uninvolved in war and how these things matter and they’ve slowly happened over the course of time. She wrote the book to explain how this has happened and said there are ways to fix it, which she says at the end of the book. And most importantly, she said this isn’t a right vs. left issue but an issue that everyone has had a hand it. And it’s not a conspiracy. It’s just how things have happened.
Instantly, my ears perked up. I liked that this would be nonpartisan. I liked that she wasn’t trying to create some conspiracy or hint at one. And of course, the issue of the military becoming this off to the side separate entity hasn’t gone unnoticed by me. History class in school usually doesn’t make it very far into the present. But I do remember a bit about WW2 (how could we not at least discuss that for a bit?) and I remember all the factories churning out materials for the guys at war, the women working in those factories making war items for their men, shipped off. And the rations. And this overwhelming sense of TOGETHERNESS and determination. Those people knew they were at war and they felt it. So why, in my entire lifetime, have I not felt like we were at war? It doesn’t have the slightest impact on my daily life, really. (I say that sadly, not happily) And I have always felt that it should. War should hurt. We should grow and learn and suffer through it to become stronger.
So of course, I wanted this book, regardless of my political views.
I’m glad I read it. There’s so much about the previous presidents that I don’t know. I’ll admit my ignorance. I know a little bit, and anytime I questioned any fact presented, I looked it up to make sure I wasn’t being “swayed” to any degree. (being swayed by political books one of the reasons I avoid them. It sickens me to see bias) I did end up stumbling upon some bit about the quote from Jefferson not being correct, but other than that, it was fine. Maddow was very good about not injecting any political bias. This is part of the reason this review has earned a 4.
This book covers the time from the Vietnam War up until today, highlighting the decisions made by each administration that led us to where we are today. It all makes sense and it’s very neatly organized and presented. I definitely learned more about the Reagan administration than I knew before.  She presented her case clearly and did exactly what she set out to do: show us how we ended up where we are, why it’s a problem, how it happened with no ounce of conspiracy but decision after decision that leads us into an almost “comfortable routine” if you will. (I guess a good analogy for what is presented is when you leave a glass on the table, get yelled at for it by your parents, forget, do it again, eventually your parents stop yelling at you, it becomes a habit, and before you know it you can’t remember ever being told not to leave your dishes out and continue on like it’s not a big deal… if that makes sense. That’s essentially the gist of how things turned out.)
True to her word, she outlined solutions to the problem, all of which seemed like good ideas.
The only problem I have with this book is that so much of it was spent on showing the beginning to the end as far as decisions went and less time talking about the how drift hurts us. She did talk about it in detail, I just hoped there would be more to it, I guess. We are living in a time and place where the obvious is not so obvious (especially when it comes to politics), so I guess I expected her to really drive that point home. After all, that’s the number one reason I wanted this book. But, alas, I understand the problem, acknowledge there is a problem, and agree with the solutions she presented, so it was worth the read.
I read on the back of this book that people who don’t like Maddow will get angry reading this. I don’t know how true that is. Then again, I’m neither left nor right in the general scheme of things, so perhaps I see it differently. The only thing I can see people getting angry about is the way she talked about Reagan, but that’s an entire debate for another day on another blog. I’m not here to discuss Reagan’s presidency, though I’m aware conservatives generally like him, so I can see potential for anger. Putting that aside, I think this book genuinely is nonpartisan. I was happy to see there was no anti war, anti military, even anti nuclear weapon stuff in this book. This was a straightforward approach to a problem that we need to be aware of and one that we need to fix. It’s just that simple.
I would recommend this book to others. I think it’s an important read for military members and their families and anyone else close to military members. I also think it’s a good read for people interested in the politics of war and even war related history to some degree.
Perhaps if enough people take notice, things can change and the military will no longer be drifting away from the general public, like a forgotten knickknack in the closet, or a recurring game subscription coming out of your bank account to a game you forgot you owned.

This book also completes category 8 of the Eclectic Reader Challenge 2012:

hosted by: bookdout
  1. Literary Fiction
  2. Crime/Mystery Fiction
  3. Romantic Fiction
  4. Historical Fiction
  5. Young Adult
  6. Fantasy
  7. Science Fiction
  8. Non Fiction
  9. Horror
  10. Thriller /Suspense
  11. Classic
  12. Your favorite genre

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