David Thompson's Reviews > Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power

Drift by Rachel Maddow
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's review
Jun 30, 2012

really liked it
Read from June 30 to July 01, 2012

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 the Founding Fathers.

A few quick thoughts--first, she does address the fact that Congress has never effectively asserted itself to stop a president with a "bead on war." Bush, Clinton, Bush--all saw a bit of resistance but ultimately got what they wanted.  Second, she does a great job at generalizing the scope of Private Military Companies (PMC) engaged in defense support and how that links to "doing more with less." Finally, her argument illustrates the road America took to 2001 and how the nation established precedent for a president to wage war, create a massive defense budget that was well over half the size of all other military budgets in the world combined, obviated the Abrams Doctrine that made reserve component forces relevant, and generally freed the Executive Branch of any restraints.

At the end of the day, she does posit that it's not too late and she offers eight recommdations to set a new course. The recommendations are broad and likely attainable.

My only complaint about the book is her method of referencing sources. Footnotes or endnotes are now where to be found, leaving the reader with a hint of "where did that fact come from?" syndrome. There is a nine-page "Notes on Sources" section at the end that attempts to quickly summarize her fact-finding-and-annotating process. It's weak, at best.
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