A recent U.S. president repeatedly violated federal law to fund a civil war in Central America. His only defense was amnesia. Most modern presidents have dropped bombs or launched missiles at other nations without even asking for congressional approval. The United States has become the only industrialized nation quick to choose lethal military action. The entire western hemisphere is currently free from armed conflict. America’s peers have clearly seen the folly of war. China has now avoided war for over thirty years. Russia has employed more cost-effective means for effecting regime change in recent years. In spite of the United States spending over $600 billion on defense and another $41 billion for homeland security, Americans have been told to get used to war without end. How did American leaders move so far from the wisdom of the founding fathers? Why does Congress tolerate such disregard for the constitution?
Television news personality Rachel Maddow tells stories to describe how she sees the world. In Drift, she tells the story of how America has drifted from her founding principles to become a nation perpetually at war. She provides clear recommendations for how the nation can get back on track.
Rachel Maddow is not a likely candidate to write an essential book on national security. Her impressive academic credentials and experience focus on public policy, not military or foreign policy. She had no real connection to the military before this book. None of this prevented her from researching this vital subject and writing a brilliant book.
Maddow believes America’s security ills are all self-induced. American leaders have generated or amplified potential foes to justify defense spending and adventurism. She repeatedly draws clear lines from illegal or imprudent presidential decisions to security crises.
Maddow’s insights and warnings are more important now than when first published. In 2012, comparisons of Donald Trump to Ronald Reagan would have been laughable. Now they are concerning. Maddow’s description of Reagan’s electoral campaign based on his salesmanship resembles Trump’s 2016 campaign. Reagan’s enormous defense spending may have contributed to the continuing decline of the Soviet Union, but it had devastating effects on the United States. It blew up the budget deficit, forced neglect of infrastructure and schools, and normalized the use of military power. Reagan eventually committed impeachable acts as he stumbled into the plot to sell weapons to Iran to pay for an illegal war in Nicaragua.
For Maddow, the authorization for military force is vital, but not the only issue that has driven the divide between the U.S. military and the nation’s ideals. She also raises concerns about the militarization of foreign policy and civilianization of the military through contracting. She tells the story of an expensive, decaying, and massive nuclear force. She recommends reducing their numbers in order to protect and modernize the weapons required to deter.
An unconventional book from a surprising author, Drift tells a story – may be the most important story for the United States today. This book would help many Americans understand how their nation got here. Reading it is not only a pleasure but a civic duty.