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The Big Answer


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Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power

a book by Rachel Maddow

(our site's book review)

We've Lost the Founders' Vision and Drifted into a State of Perpetual War

The Amazon blurb says that The #1 New York Times bestseller that charts America’s dangerous drift into a state of perpetual war.

Written with bracing wit and intelligence, Rachel Maddow's Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power argues that we've drifted away from America's original ideals and become a nation weirdly at peace with perpetual war. 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 Reagan's radical presidency, 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.

Vietnam War—58,209 U.S. dead: but for WHAT?
Vietnam War—58,209 U.S. dead: but for WHAT?


Iraq + Afghanistan Wars—6,717 U.S. dead: but for WHAT?
Iraq + Afghanistan Wars—6,717 U.S. dead: but for WHAT?


Maddow competently explores 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
Maddow competently explores 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

Ultimately, she shows us just how much we stand to lose by allowing the scope of American military power to overpower our political discourse.

Sensible yet provocative, dead serious yet seri­ously funny, Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power will reinvigorate a "loud and jangly" political debate about our vast and confounding national security state.


See Also:


The U.S. Seems to Have Been Fighting a Permanent Global War with… Well, ITSELF — and It Appears to Be Losing!

What are we to make of a planet with a single superpower that lacks genuine enemies of any significance and that seems to have been fighting a permanent global war with… well, ITSELF — and appears to be losing?
What are we to make of a planet with a single superpower that lacks genuine enemies of any significance and that seems to have been fighting a permanent global war with… well, ITSELF — and appears to be losing?

There Are a Lot of People Who Gave Maddow Good Reviews

One of the Washington Post’s 50 Notable Works of Nonfiction for 2012

One of Kirkus Reviews’ Best Nonfiction Books of 2012

“Thank Ms. Maddow for picking this and every other fight that Drift provokes. It will be a smarter public debate than the kinds we're used to.” —Janet Maslin, New York Times

“A biting, bracing tour of the rise of American military bloat...Her fix-it ideas aren't facile or smiley-faced. They are a coda to the serious project she's taken on--a project that both plays to her persona and gives it new gravitas...Rachel, if you can get those ideas a serious hearing, you will be much more than TV's funniest wonk.” —Emily Bazelon, Slate.com

“Maddow’s distinctive voice in Drift is highly intelligent, often incredulous and intermittently and humorously profane...Her thesis, which is passionately and effectively articulated, remind[s] us of how far we have drifted from linking the sacrifices of our armed forces around the world to the citizens at home they so selflessly serve… Maddow…[has] provided readers with a timely and perhaps necessary provocation to examine the far-reaching consequences of the American way of war.” —Gordon M. Goldstein, Washington Post

“Crosses partisan lines and deals with issues that deserve a healthy debate...A compelling, intelligent read filled with Maddow's trademark wit.” —Mary Houlihan, Chicago Sun-Times

“Even though she's an ideological broadcaster, Maddow doesn't resort to demonization and hyperbole. It makes her case much stronger.” —Conor Friedersdorf, TheAtlantic.com

“Lively but serious...This book is a reminder that before Maddow became a face on nighttime television, she was a Rhodes scholar who earned a doctorate in politics at Oxford. But Drift is not heavy reading, and her cheerfully snarky voice is instantly recognizable...A thought-provoking and timely book.” —Scott Shane, New York Times Book Review

“Full of head-smacking stories about America's military meddling and muddling...Maddow sounds an alarm this country needs to hear more than almost any other.” —Catherine Lutz, San Francisco Chronicle

“Provocative...Asks fundamental questions about the process by which the U.S. now goes to war that pretty much never get asked by the media.” —Wired.com

“Thoroughly researched...Written in her signature broadcast style--provocative, satirical, passionate-bordering-on-outrage...Progressive fans of her show may already know what to expect. Yet the book still surprises.” —Minneapolis Star Tribune

“Recommended reading...There's a deadly serious argument here that deserves way more attention than it gets.” —Kevin Drum, MotherJones.com

“Engaging but sobering...With the same kind of substance, wit and charge that make her TV show a top-rated Emmy winner, Maddow details how dubious wars, the exploding "privatization" of the military and a superfunded, superpowered security leviathan have drained our resources...Sometimes it takes a gutsy, determined woman—a Nellie Bly, Rachel Carson, Ida Tarbell, Elizabeth Neuffer, Molly Ivins or Rachel Maddow—to hang a literary lantern on a revolting situation.” —Austin American-Statesman

Drift is infused with Maddow’s sharp wit and her vast political knowledge. She dexterously reveals how we became the nation that spends more money on militarism then all other nations combined...“The path to American amnesia is worth recalling on this Memorial Day,” wrote Tom Englehardt. If you want to jog your memory, I encourage you to dive into Maddow’s brilliant testament to remembering.” —MsMagazine.com

Military spending for 2012 (Source: SIPRI, but it's our original graphics)
Military spending for 2012 (Source: SIPRI, but it's our original graphics)


Maddow dexterously reveals how we became the nation that spends more money on militarism then all other nations combined—the path to American amnesia is worth recalling on this Memorial Day
Maddow dexterously reveals how we became the nation that spends more money on militarism then all other nations combined—the path to American amnesia is worth recalling on this Memorial Day

Drift is a provocative, important book that displays all the qualities of its author: intelligence, humor, depth, and originality. Maddow raises vital questions about how the American ways of war have changed and endangered our democracy, but she does so without cant or predictability. America’s most charismatic liberal has crafted here an argument for skepticism about our military-industrial complex that will persuade many conservatives—a remarkable achievement.” —Steve Coll, author of Ghost Wars

“With her savage wit, dazzling command of facts, and eye for the absurd, Maddow tells the epic story of how American warfare came to be both never-ending and practically invisible. In the process, she revives a radically old-fashioned idea: waging war should be wrenchingly difficult for a nation, for that is what prevents unnecessary battles from being waged. This courageous book deserves to spark a national debate about the purpose of war.” —Naomi Klein, author of The Shock Doctrine

“In Drift, Rachel Maddow brings her passion, wit, cool common sense and intellectual firepower to the epic and darkly farcical story of how America has declined into an overfunded and unchecked national security state—one that inflicts more damage on America’s assets, our military included, than it does on our adversaries. At a crossroads when Americans of all stripes are rethinking their country’s priorities, Maddow’s compelling take on how we drifted into the costly habit of perennial war--and how we might yet reverse it—could not be more timely.” —Frank Rich, writer-at-large, New York magazine

“Here's this conservative's assessment of Rachel Maddow's Drift: It's scathingly funny, deeply insightful, and informed throughout by a deep and abiding sense of patriotism. Bravo, Rachel!” —Andrew J. Bacevich, author of Washington Rules: America's Path to Permanent War

“Written with the flair for scintillating satire that has endeared Rachel Maddow to liberals and moderates alike—and infuriated neo-conservatives, evangelicals, and some tea partiers--Drift is funny, rich, and right. But at its end, when you put it down, you will be troubled. We are losing our republic and Ms. Maddow tells you why.” —Lawrence Wilkerson, Professor of Government and Public Policy at the College of William and Mary and former chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell

“America is in urgent need of a real debate over its addiction to sprawling militarism and endless war. It affects, and degrades, every aspect of national life: political, cultural, and economic. Nobody is better positioned to trigger that debate than Rachel Maddow, and that's exactly what she does in this startlingly insightful and well-written book. By stripping away the propaganda that distorts national security policy and laying bare its reality, Maddow has written one of those rare political books that can transform Americans' understanding of what their government is actually doing.” —Glenn Greenwald, columnist for Salon and author of Liberty and Justice for Some

“Rachel Maddow's Drift is a long overdue and provocative examination of the abuses, excesses and just plain foolish elements in our national security systems. These are issues that deserve our attention.” —Tom Brokaw, NBC News Special Correspondent and best-selling author of The Greatest Generation

Drift never makes the case that war might be necessary. America would be weakened dramatically if we had underreacted to 9/11. However, Rachel Maddow makes valid arguments that our country has been drifting towards questionable wars, draining our resources, without sufficient input and time. People who like Rachel will love the book. People who don’t will get angry, but aggressive debate is good for America. Drift is a book worth reading.” —Roger Ailes, Chairman and CEO, FOX News

Rachel Maddow makes valid arguments that our country has been drifting toward questionable wars and draining our resources without sufficient input—as if we had an infinite supply of money
Rachel Maddow makes valid arguments that our country has been drifting toward questionable wars and draining our resources without sufficient input—as if we had an infinite supply of money

Drift is a serious and carefully-conceived piece of investigative reporting, illuminating a subject—the vast and mostly secret militarization of our society—that most Americans have no idea of, thanks in large part to the failure of many high-profile journalists to discuss it. Rachel has once again broken the mold and she should be immensely proud of this book, which is written in the same bright, clear, engaging style she brings to broadcast television.” —Matt Taibbi, author of Griftopia

“In Drift, people who love Rachel Maddow will discover that her gift for finding amazing anecdotes and funny, revealing details totally translates to the page. People who hate her may be surprised by how often in Drift she espouses some of the most conservative values: a suspicion of big government and unbridled federal power, a zeal to cut wasteful spending and a yearning to return to the intentions of the Founding Fathers.” —Ira Glass, host of public radio’s “This American Life”

“Brilliant book. Drift will stun Americans with its portrait of a hyperventilating United States that has produced too many real live Dr. Strangelove moments. Drawing from thoughtful, national interest-driven conservatives and not just the liberal establishment, Maddow makes the case that what ought to be a strong nation is instead risking shipwreck, by letting war and military matters escape real political and economic gravitational forces. Every page informs and angers at the same time.” —Steve Clemons, Washington editor-at-large, The Atlantic


Perpetual War Is a Serious Condition and It Is Doing Terrible Damage to the Economic Health, the Spirit, and the Safety of the Country

Maddow makes the case that what ought to be a strong nation is instead risking shipwreck, by letting war and military matters escape real political and economic gravitational forces
Maddow makes the case that what ought to be a strong nation is instead risking shipwreck, by letting war and military matters escape real political and economic gravitational forces

Maddow wisely and capably recounts how the USA has drifted into its present state of perpetual war. The executive branch of the government now finds that it can wage war with little restraint. Perpetual war is a serious condition and it is doing terrible damage to the economic health, the spirit, and indeed the safety of the country.

Unless American citizens start defecating money, the debt from perpetual war has put us all in deep doo-doo
Unless American citizens start defecating money, the debt from perpetual war has put us all in deep doo-doo

U.S. Citizens Are Insulated from Wars So They Don't Question or Oppose Them

The main point Maddow makes is that the members of the public have been insulated from the impacts of war on their lives. This results in U.S. citizens who are not motivated to keep informed about wars let alone question them or oppose wars meaningfully. Maddow uses three arguments to support her assertion that America is insulated from war:

Maddow helpfully supplies a list of how to begin to fix things and eventually reverse the process. The steps she lists are very reasonable and most likely would work if given a chance. This still is a pseudo-democracy, so things still can be changed once we understand the situation. This oligarchy of ours used to be a democracy with a free press, but is no longer a viable democracy nor do we have a free press. See Freedom of the Press—an American Delusion and Democracy—an American Delusion

Dubya lied us into attacking Iraq unprovoked by sending Cheney on the talk show circuit to lie about Saddam's WMDs, scaring us with lies
Dubya lied us into attacking Iraq unprovoked by sending Cheney on the talk show circuit to lie about Saddam's WMDs, scaring us with lies

America's Nuclear Arsenal Is a Disaster Just Waiting to Happen

Maddow bemoans the disintegrating state of America's nuclear arsenal. Such a state is perilous—a disaster just waiting to happen. Remember when Dubya lied us into attacking Iraq unprovoked by sending Cheney on the talk show circuit to lie about Saddam's WMDs, scaring us with images of "mushroom clouds over Manhattan"? The irresponsible way we treat our nukes could well create such a cloud for real. This is a wake-up call.

The irresponsible way we treat our nukes could well create such a mushroom cloud for real
The irresponsible way we treat our nukes could well create such a mushroom cloud for real


This is a wake-up call about responsible nuke maintenance
This is a wake-up call about responsible nuke maintenance

Maddow Bemoans the Bush and Obama Administration's Use of Drone Strikes without Adequate Congressional Oversight and Accountability

Maddow is highly critical of the Bush and Obama administration's use of drone strikes without adequate Congressional oversight and accountability. Blow up anyone who seems suspicious using the old motto "Kill them all, and let God sort them out."

Maddow is highly critical of the Bush and Obama administration's use of drone strikes without adequate Congressional oversight and accountability
Maddow is highly critical of the Bush and Obama administration's use of drone strikes without adequate Congressional oversight and accountability


The Predator Drone program was run by the men who would be gods: From left to right, the Antichrist and his side-kick Beelzebub act as gods, swatting to death anyone who displeases them or forgets to bow
The Predator Drone program was run by the men who would be gods: From left to right, the Antichrist and his side-kick Beelzebub act as gods, swatting to death anyone who displeases them or forgets to bow

Our Military Believes That Might Makes Right but Constantly Keeps Illustrating That Might Makes Stupid

Our military is subcontracting so many defense functions and shifting so much of the decision-making to the executive branch that this means that the average American doesn't "feel" it when the country is at war. People aren't as affected by it, which is the opposite of what the founders wrote into the Constitution. It allows the military industrial complex to do whatever, letting our military "drift." Presidents, Congresses, the military, corporations and the citizens of the U.S. all share the blame for a situation which has in two generations converted our country from a peaceful nation into a country where our primary product, and export to the world, is War.

As the U.S. runs around the Middle East like a bull in a china shop, pretending to be a terrorism-stopping hero but actually being a terrorism-creating villain, people shake their head sadly since even though U.S. mainstream media oozes with pro-Empire propaganda that supports their actions, the rest of the world sees that our military believes that Might Makes Right but constantly keeps illustrating that Might Makes Stupid.

Truman, LBJ, Nixon, Reagan, Dubya Bush and OBomb'em all decided to lead the U.S. to act in ways that the rest of the world viewed as a bull in a china shop—now Trump is keeping the foolishness going
Truman, LBJ, Nixon, Reagan, Dubya Bush and OBomb'em all decided to lead the U.S. to act in ways that the rest of the world viewed as a bull in a china shop—now Trump is keeping the foolishness going


The rest of the world sees that our military believes that Might Makes Right but constantly keeps illustrating that Might Makes Stupid
The rest of the world sees that our military believes that Might Makes Right but constantly keeps illustrating that Might Makes Stupid

Oilman Dubya Bush Lied Us into War to Get His Greedy Mitts on Middle East Oil

Our forefathers would have never gotten into Middle East quagmires nor Vietnam quagmires either. But oilman Dubya Bush lied us into war just to get his greedy little mitts on Middle East oil.

Oilman Dubya Bush lied us into war just to get his greedy little mitts on Middle East oil, making the oil he got red with blood
Oilman Dubya Bush lied us into war just to get his greedy little mitts on Middle East oil, making the oil he got red with blood


Dubya got his oil at a tremendous cost in money, resources, lives, and environmental destruction, but he had no skin in the game, so he just counted his plunder and smiled
Dubya got his oil at a tremendous cost in money, resources, lives, and environmental destruction, but he had no skin in the game, so he just counted his plunder and smiled


However, the soldiers we sent in harm's way paid dearly for Dubya's greed—Bush used them as cannon fodder; those of us who understand war see them as heroes that should never have been sent there
However, the soldiers we sent in harm's way paid dearly for Dubya's greed—Bush used them as cannon fodder; those of us who understand war see them as heroes that should never have been sent there

Our Military Isn't Preventing Terrorism—It's Creating Terrorism

We cannot afford any of these wars, yet we are spending like drunken sailors even though most of us have no clue where the money is going. It might as well have been rocketed into a black hole, for all the good it's doing
We cannot afford any of these wars, yet we are spending like drunken sailors even though most of us have no clue where the money is going. It might as well have been rocketed into a black hole, for all the good it's doing

One Amazon reviewer says it best: "try not to think about what you are paying for with your tax dollars!" We cannot afford any of these wars, yet we are spending like drunken sailors even though most of us have no clue where the money is going. It might as well have been rocketed into a black hole, for all the good it's doing. It's not preventing terrorism—it is creating terrorism

Our military isn't stopping terrorism—it is a terrorist factory: kill one, his ten relatives swear vengeance on us and join ISIS—and yet WE KEEP DOING IT!
Our military isn't stopping terrorism—it is a terrorist factory: kill one, his ten relatives swear vengeance on us and join ISIS—and yet WE KEEP DOING IT!


We keep attacking countries and calling their citizens that resist us 'terrorists'—but I wonder if perhaps it is we who are the terrorists
We keep attacking countries and calling their citizens that resist us 'terrorists'—but I wonder if perhaps it is we who are the terrorists

As Maddow says, "About 10 percent of the money paid to Iraqi subcontractors for the Fallujah project ended up in the hands of 'terrorist organizations.' . . . No one would argue for something like this as a good use of US tax dollars. But it is in fact what we bought."


National Security Is Vital but Our Aggressive Empire Building Is Unrelated to Our Security

In the past, the professional military was an institution of limited reach and power; in times of peace we kept the regulars busy building or repairing defense works and ports and bridges
In the past, the professional military was an institution of limited reach and power; in times of peace we kept the regulars busy building or repairing defense works and ports and bridges

She goes on, "National security is a real imperative for our country—for any country. But the connection between that imperative and what we do about it has gone as frowsy as my hometown’s little pump station in high August. Our national security policy isn’t much related to its stated justifications anymore. To whatever extent we do argue and debate what defense and intelligence policy ought to be, that debate—our political process—doesn’t actually determine what we do. We’re not directing that policy anymore; it just follows its own course. Which means we’ve effectively lost control of a big part of who we are as a country. . . . The professional military was an institution of limited reach and power; in times of peace we kept the regulars busy building defense works and ports and bridges."

With no check on its growth and no rival for its political influence, the superfunded, superempowered national security state has become a leviathan
With no check on its growth and no rival for its political influence, the superfunded, superempowered national security state has become a leviathan

"Although Maddow does not mention Ike’s famous farewell address, his cautionary vision seems to animate her analysis in Drift. 'With no check on its growth and no rival for its political influence,' she argues, 'the superfunded, superempowered national security state has become a leviathan.' . . . Maddow evinces an inherent skepticism about the projection of U.S. military power, which in her narrative occurs too frequently and too permissively. . . . Maddow assiduously recounts the dubious rationale for President Ronald Reagan’s invasion of Grenada in 1983 and the folly of that administration’s covert program to trade arms for hostages with Iran and then funnel the proceeds to anti-communist rebels in Nicaragua." (Source: DRIFT The Unmooring of American Military Power By Rachel Maddow; WARTIME An Idea, Its history, Its Consequences By Mary L. Dudziak, Gordon M. Goldstein, Washington Post)

Maddow assiduously recounts the dubious rationale for President Ronald Reagan’s invasion of Grenada in 1983 and the folly of that administration’s covert program to trade arms for hostages with Iran and then funnel the proceeds to anti-communist rebels in Nicaragua
Maddow assiduously recounts the dubious rationale for President Ronald Reagan’s invasion of Grenada in 1983 and the folly of that administration’s covert program to trade arms for hostages with Iran and then funnel the proceeds to anti-communist rebels in Nicaragua

Maddow's book exposes the underhanded policies of both Republican and Democratic politicians. We, Maddow, and millions of people around the world bemoan the fact that the U.S. cannot seem to stop warmongering. Enough, already! Come home where you belong. This is an extremely well researched and well thought out and informative book with an easy-to-read style and it is tastefully snarky and funny as well.