Bill Kerwin's Reviews > Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power

Drift by Rachel Maddow
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Aug 29, 15

really liked it
Read from April 05 to 07, 2012


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 analysis with such positive energy and humor, that I invariably leave her show with more hope and more determination that I had when I arrived.

That being said, I must confess that I wasn't really expecting much out of her book. She has often said that she doesn't enjoy the act of writing—that “it makes her crazy”--and as a general rule the books of TV personalities—no matter how intelligent and perceptive they may be—are seldom weighty or memorable.

I was wrong. “Drift” is a fine book” pithy, economical, stylistically pleasing, and informed by an interesting thesis.

One of the reasons I have always liked Maddow is that she is too broad-minded for polemics and too level-headed for conspiracy theory, and the significance of her title is a clear indication of this. She shows all the ways in which our military establishment has “drifted” further from the moorings of democratic control until it has become bloated, inefficient and unmanageable. Many things have contributed to this trend: presidential usurpation of congressional power, an increase in small undeclared “police actions”, the privatization of support functions, the proliferation of “contractors” (read “mercenaries”), the growing use of the CIA for drone strikes and other covert military missions, the expansion of military functions to include activities formerly allocated to that State Department or the Peace Corps, an increasing reliance on the National Guard as if it were the regular army, and the growing burden of an unnecessarily large and decaying nuclear infrastructure. Maddow argues that none of this is part of some larger design, that no conspiracy is involved. It has happened--and is still happening--because particular presidents (of both parties) desired some international objective and choose the path of least resistance to accomplish it. She bolsters her thesis with scores of interesting anecdotes and arguments, expressed in forthright, often colloquial prose.

The hopeful part? If this is indeed a “drift” and not a conspiracy, it can be reversed by an attentive concerned public. The military may be drifting away from our comprehension and control, but with time—and hope and determination—we Americans can reverse the trend.
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message 2: by Jon (new)

Jon I share your enthusiasm for Maddow. I used to listen to her on the radio too. Book sounds interesting, but for me it would be preaching to the choir.


message 1: by Jeffrey (new) - added it

Jeffrey Mcandrew Great review. I find her humor refreshing. You're right, she does have the ability to keep an upbeat tone no matter what she's talking about. She has a good grasp on where the country is going, what it needs to do to get on it's feet, and how to grasp the important ideals.


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