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Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power

4.09 of 5 stars 4.09  ·  rating details  ·  10,498 ratings  ·  1,591 reviews
The #1 New York Times bestseller that charts America’s dangerous drift into a state of perpetual war.

"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...more
288 pages
Published March 27th 2012 by Random House Audio (first published January 1st 2012)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Chris
I spent six years on active duty in the Air Force and I dealt with some of the material the author talks about towards the end of the book regarding America's nuclear program. I want to commend the author on her research, she is spot-on with the facts and gives IMO an accurate view of what is wrong and how to fix it.

The author does a very good job of showing how the military drifted to what it is now where civilians don't feel the burden of war because the President (all recent modern Presidents...more
Stephanie
My dream Democratic presidential ticket for 2016 would include Rachel Maddow. I’m thinking if Joe Biden doesn’t want to do it (and I don’t think he does) then Al Franken, John Stewart or Stephen Colbert should be the other half. That would be an entertaining and smart duo to run the country. Maybe Colbert would be the smartest pick since his satire is so genius it might fool a few on the right to vote for him.

Everyone should read this book. It’s a non partisan commentary, it takes to task the pr...more
Sineala
I am sure I will lose all credibility in the eyes of anyone reading this if I admit I originally picked it up due to my giant and long-standing crush on Rachel Maddow. Let's not say that, then, shall we?

Drift is, basically, a book about how come it's so easy for the US to go to war these days, which I have to admit is something that I have occasionally wondered. It's well-written, well-supported, and Maddow's style is extremely fun and makes the book as a whole pleasant to read.

Highlights for me...more
Bill  Kerwin

I've been a big Rachel Maddow fan for more than seven years, from back in the Air America “Unfiltered” days when she was partnered with Chuck D. and Lizz Winstead. I began to listen to her faithfully as soon as she was given a 5 A.M. hour news show, and I have been listening and watching ever since, with a proprietary, almost fatherly, interest. Sure, she preaches to the choir, and sometimes she lectures like a schoolmarm, but her intelligence is so penetrating, and she delivers her pessimistic...more
Will Byrnes
Updated - 5/26/13 - new link at bottom

Suppose they gave a war and no one protested?

That sounds like heaven on earth for some politicos, some military leaders and a whole lot of contractors who have been growing Jabba-the-Hutt chunky on public dollars.

Rachel Maddow, the most charming, and surely one of the brightest political commentators on the scene, has written a thoughtful analysis of how we got from what, in law if not always in practice, was a disinclination towards war, to the current stat...more
Jay Connor
What ever your position on the FOX – MSNBC political polarity spectrum, I think you would have to agree that Rachel Maddow is the only political talk show host who doesn’t just phone it in and settle back to let the pointy heads yell at each other.

A thorough and intelligent framing of the upcoming subject precedes every one of her interviews or segments. Yes, her slant is liberal and her wit is broad, but at least, she bases her opinions on something of substance approximating reality. I think...more
Thomas
This is a great book, by a liberal from a military family. Throughout, Maddow treats the military with the respect it is due, but calls out numerous politicians and power-players at the top (including many military commanders) who have misused military power and managed it badly -- with the result that American soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines get the short end of the stick, and no appreciable societal benefit of the post-WWII style is provided. A book about a sad and infuriating phenomenon...more
Dan
Jun 10, 2012 Dan rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: library
"Drift" is not what some might expect; this is no kumbya-ish "Peace Good, War Bad" diatribe. This book is far more nuanced than that. Maddow accepts that war is sometimes necessary. But, a variety of trends have eliminated or reduced the historic factors that have made war a difficult choice. We've now been at war for more than a decade and most of society hasn't been impacted at all. The exceptions, of course, are those in the military, guard, and reserves and their families, for whom she maint...more
Jason
Sure, it's probably biased. Making a claim and deductively supporting it involves bias. Bias and truth are not mutually exclusive. And Maddow's claim, that the US executive branch has essentially subverted the Constitution and the ideas of the founding fathers in its evolution toward a secret, unaccountable military disconnected from the government and the public, is awfully damning. Although Drift is occasionally funny, the feeling it leaves with the reader is outrage.

Maddow slays some sacred...more
Maxine
According to author and political pundit, Rachel Maddow, Thomas Jefferson believed that the executive branch of the US government would always be tempted to take the country into war. To prevent this, the power to declare war was given to congress in the belief that, with so many people with different and conflicting agendas, it would be much harder to get such a declaration. Jefferson also believed that the burden of war, both the financial and human cost, must be shared by all, thus adding ano...more
Allison
Oct 04, 2012 Allison marked it as read-nonfiction  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2012, great
This book is really, really good, like in a read-aloud-and-discuss kind of way. I can't imagine the amount of research that went into writing it. Maddow lays out the history of the US military and how it has gotten to be such a force, an entity unto itself, gobbling up money like a black hole consuming stars. I was particularly intrigued to learn about the Iran-Contra scandal, as I was too young at the time and don't remember much about it from any history classes. Maddow spells out exactly how...more
Samantha Thompson
Mar 27, 2012 Samantha Thompson marked it as to-read
I'm so torn. I want the book, but I want Rachel to read it to me. First world problems.
Kathy
Any book that points out that Jeff Sessions is an idiot and manages to use the word chickenshittery multiple times is off to a good start, but Drift goes the extra mile and provides an interesting and well-researched study of military bloat and the U.S.'s relative comfort with a near-perpetual state of war.

After a quick examination of the country's initial view of the importance of making the population feel the costs of war across the board, Maddow launches into a really fascinating (if chilli...more
Paul Gleason
Rachel Maddow is a brilliant, insightful, and passionate public intellectual. There's a paucity of people like her in the US today, and Drift should be applauded.

Maddow doesn't really offer anything new here in terms of her political analysis. If you've been thinking critically about US history from the beginning of the Cold War to the present day, you won't find much new information in Drift.

But providing new information isn't Maddow's gist. Her impetus is to analyze well-known historical facts...more
Donna
May 04, 2012 Donna rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: all voters
Shelves: nonfiction
I'm pretty much a pacifist, but as a good citizen I believe everyone needs to know something about the US military. Rachel Maddow's book takes you through -- step-by-step, war-by-war -- all of the decisions made since the end of the Vietnam War. The topics include the War Powers Act, the Abrams Doctrine, the volunteer Army and use of the Guard and Reserves, the invasion of Grenada, the Iran-Contra Affair, the Balkans involvement, Iraq War I, the use of private contractors, the Afghan War, Iraq W...more
Dan
So this is a book about how we've let military spending run amok and ushered in a new way of thinking, or more accurately, not thinking about our constant state of war. The last chapter, which feels like a bonus chapter as it seems somewhat tacked on, discusses our nuclear weapon stockpiles and is pretty terrifying. If the rest of the book was horrible, and it isn't, this chapter would make up for it.

One of my favorite things about this book is that it is written by a talk show host, someone in...more
Ceilidh


Yeah, I'll try and write a proper review at some point but I just freaking love Rachel Maddow. She's one of my heroes and one of the reasons I'm as passionate about politics as I am, so blame her for me!
David Thompson
Maddow's "Drift" was discussed briefly during an international relations lesson here at the US Army School of Advanced Military Studies at Fort Leavenworth. I felt the need to pick it up and see what she had to say.

Bottom line: she makes--and attempts to defend--an argument that America has drifted into a costly habit of perennial war. To back this up, the book's nine chapters analyze the nation's military commitments over the past 80 years and ties it back to the orignal intent expressed by th...more
Ryan
I've been a defense contractor for about two years, and unfortunately, a lot in this book speaks to my experience. I see little purpose to the project I'm working on, and little conviction among the military personnel we work with that the occupation of Afghanistan has done much good. I've also learned a lot about the capabilities of drone technology, and worry that its use by shadowy agencies is expanding unchecked.

Maddow may be a darling of the liberal media, but much of what she has to say in...more
Melanie
Having trouble rating this one. Ultimately, I call it amazing because of Maddow's remarkable ability to clear away clutter from the last 40 years to look at one particular thread of history--the consolidation of military control in the hands of POTUS, and what that has done to us as a country.

It took me almost a month to read this (oops, overdue library fines), even though it's under 300 pages, because I had to keep putting it down. It HURT. I'm old enough to remember all of this. When I read ab...more
Judith
Rachel brings us a clear, well-documented account of how our military has expanded and changed since WWII. She takes us from the entry into Vietnam, through Johnson's and Reagan's presidencies, and on through to Iraq, Pakistan, and beyond. She shows us how each step was taken that led to where we are now. And where are we?

A president can wage war now without bothering the rest of us. Fewer than 1% of US citizens are in the military, and as a rule we tend not to care about modern-day mercenaries:...more
Todd
Very good read. It's about time she wrote a book. She lays out well her argument about how the US is so quick to war these days, the reasons and history for it and why it's a bad thing and contradicts the founding fathers' intentions with war in which the US gets involved.

I'm a big fan of Rachel, have been since Air America Radio, and the one thing I always criticise her regarding is that she doesn't explicitly express her opinion(s) and even worse, she doesn't tell you what needs to happen to f...more
Christopher Gerrib
I recently finished reading this book. The author is famous as a TV-talker, but she is a Rhodes Scholar and has a PhD in politics, so she's no airhead. Despite her academic credentials, the book is written in a casual, conversational tone. It's a great read, and I highly recommend it.

The book's basic argument is that it has become entirely too easy for the United States to go to war. This is due to a couple of factors. First, the US military is large, at least by historical levels, and considere...more
Jon-Erik
I like Rachel Maddow a lot. People who draw a false equivalency between her and her purported counterparts on the right are far too facile in their comparisons. Maddow is quirky, intelligent, unorthodox, and, above all, she is not angry. And those who have refused her admittance to the ranks of the Very Serious, like The New Republic, are only showing their own rust.

Drift discusses a topic that should be of great concern to any subject of our great empire: that of the increasing militarization o...more
Socraticgadfly
I'm going to be a bit contrarian and down-rate this book. (Ideally, I'd put it at 3.5 stars, maybe 3.75.)

It's good, good indeed for what it covers. But, it operates under the presumption this is all new.

And, it's not.

Some US presidents tolerated quasi-official filibustering in Central America back in the 1850s.

Of course, that wasn't much.

But, since the Spanish-American War, but long before Vietnam, we had plenty of other undeclared wars, without act of Congress.

The 1899-1902 war in the Philippin...more
David
The basic premise for Drift is that the executive branch and legislative branch have found, over the last 20 years, how to create War without upsetting Americans. Maddow claims that much of the support structure for modern War efforts has been built into the National Guard and private contractors, thereby avoiding the need to annoy the electorate. I don’t know if Maddow is right or wrong about this argument, but I do know that she had a lot of fun picking on every military leader over the last 2...more
Linda Robinson
In the first 20 pages, Maddow covers how we got to war from the Declaration of Independence to WWII and these 20 pages alone are worth considerable attention and praise. After WWII we lost direction and our minds. From the debacle of Vietnam, Reagan's criminal secret warring, the privatization of most military jobs (starting with the nasty crowd at DynCorp and childcare for military families) we've gone to sea in a warboat that leaks our money while taking aboard nefarious privateers. One fascin...more
Marvin
It seems that since my birth in the 1950s, America has been in perpetual wars. Since 2001, we have been in perpetual war. Rachel Maddow's intriguing look at the evolution of military action in America does a lot of explaining why this is so. We as a nation have done three things in the last 40 years that makes this so.

1) the presidents, through manipulation and the assent of an indifferent Congress, have much mor power in declaring military action than the constitution allows.

2) War no longer de...more
Debbie "DJ" Wilson


This book is an extremely important look at America and our war policy. While such a topic may seem dry, Maddow's book took me on a journey that was captivating. Have you ever wondered why we seem so disconnected from our current wars, why our economy is broke, or what has become of our over 5000 nuclear warheads? Our founding fathers created what is known as the "Addams Doctrine", which places the power to go to war in the hands of congress. This was done to insure no one person could decide t...more
Nick
Christ, this is a scary book. Completely undermined any vaguely remaining respect I had for Reagan along the way to a very clear description of how we wound up with the largest military and military budget in the world. It lays out exactly how we got into the mess that we're currently in, both in terms of our massive, unwieldy, and unsustainable military as well as our massive, unwieldy, and unsustainable deficit. But my God, how are we going to dig ourselves out? It's all well and good to say t...more
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Rachel Anne Maddow is an American radio personality, television host, and political commentator. Her syndicated talk radio program, The Rachel Maddow Show, aired on Air America Radio. Maddow hosts a nightly television show, The Rachel Maddow Show, on MSNBC. She was a guest host of Countdown with Keith Olbermann and Race for the White House. Maddow is the first openly gay anchor to be hired to host...more
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“The reason the founders chafed at the idea of an American standing army and vested the power of war making in the cumbersome legislature was not to disadvantage us against future enemies, but to disincline us toward war as a general matter... With citizen-soldiers, with the certainty of a vigorous political debate over the use of a military subject to politicians' control, the idea was for us to feel it- uncomfortably- every second we were at war. But after a generation or two of shedding the deliberate political encumbrances to war that they left us... war making has become almost an autonomous function of the American state. It never stops.” 13 likes
“The artificial primacy of defense among our national priorities is a constant unearned windfall for some, but it's privation for the rest of America; it steals from what we could be and can do. In Econ 101, they teach that the big-picture fight over national priorities is guns versus butter. Now it's butter versus margarine—guns get a pass.

Overall, we're weaker for it, and at enormous cost.”
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