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Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power

4.06  ·  Rating details ·  19,623 ratings  ·  2,125 reviews
"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 of Homeland Security; its rust­ing nuclear weapons, ill-maintained and difficult to dismantle; and its ...more
288 pages
Published March 27th 2012 by Random House Audio
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Lynn Thanks for answers. I read this as others have based on a respect for the professionalism of Rachel Maddow. More specifically, I have seen Maddow disp…moreThanks for answers. I read this as others have based on a respect for the professionalism of Rachel Maddow. More specifically, I have seen Maddow display an ongoing esteem for our military and an unflinching drive to seek and report facts to the public.
Because as citizens we place the treasure of our young people and of our wallets in service to our national defense, reading Maddow's work seems like a "must read." I was not disappointed.(less)

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Will Byrnes
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 state of affairs in which presidents can
Bill Kerwin
Apr 05, 2012 rated it really liked it

I've been a big Rachel Maddow fan for more than twelve 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 often--particularly in the first quarter of her show--she lectures like a schoolmarm, but her intelligence is so p
Apr 01, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Stephanie *Eff your feelings*
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
Mar 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fic
Are you too relaxed? Are you worryingly unworried, and sleeping far too easily? Do you labour under the belief that the checks and balances in the US system of government will prevent dangerous/idiotic presidents from invading countries willy-nilly and drone-striking you in retaliation for your critical facebook comments?

If this sounds like you, then Rachel Maddow's Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power is the antidote to your serenity! Build a bunker, delete your social media accounts
Apr 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: e-books, non-fiction
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
Michael Finocchiaro
I discovered Rachel Maddow a little late because I live in France and I only learned about her on MSNBC with her stories that I follow about Drumpf&Co. Her book Drift about the change in US military policy is well-researched provides a lot of insight into how America modified executive power in declaring war from being necessarily approved by Congress to war by proxy using mercenaries. It does have a political event but as the cover says ultimately the logic underneath her argument is not partis ...more
Nov 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
I was unaware of Rachel Maddow until I saw several interviews of her for her current book “Blowout”. I was impressed to learn that she is a Rhodes Scholar and has a Ph.D. in Politics. I watched a few of her shows and read this book. I am amazed at her analytical abilities. She can reduce complicated data into succinct, epigrammatic, perceptive and easy understandable information.

Maddow documents how the checks and balances of government have broken down. She says Congress has abdicated its respo
Tom LA
Aug 17, 2015 rated it liked it
Given that almost everyone on Goodreads loved this book, I'm genuinely wondering if the author succeeded at "sparking a debate". I haven't seen any. Have you?

So here is my lukewarm opinion. It's not a flat-out negative review, because I found the main points made in this book to be fair and thought-provoking, but Maddow's arrogant tone and her hate for Reagan ruined the book.

Let me start strong in being controversial here by quoting Justin Logan (Cato Institute) : "The chapters are stapled-toge
Jay Connor
Jun 05, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Apr 07, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
May 28, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Apr 21, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Jun 27, 2020 rated it really liked it
This is a rather short book, around 250 pages, dealing with a very weighty subject which is: what it means for us to live in a permanent war state. While author Rachel Maddow is well-known as a liberal commentator, I thought that, in this book, she came across as a conservative in the true sense of the word, as wanting to go back to the intent of the framers of the Constitution. The Constitution gave Congress the power to declare war and one of Maddow's points is that Congress gave up its author ...more
Nov 14, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Mar 19, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The story of Drift goes something like this: once upon a time, the founders of the United States revolted against the British military presence in America and the tax burden of paying for that military. Those same founders were so worried about the problems that come with a standing army that, in the Constitution, they explicitly included several checks and balances to keep the US a peaceable nation, and the military a band of citizen-soldiers. This went along fine until Vietnam, when the presid ...more
Sep 28, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Five nights a week, Rachel Maddow presents a well-researched show. The content is always good, but Maddow's depth, commitment and passion make it. Her forte is policy. In this book, she discusses how the US military has become "unmoored" from its Constitutional role.

She begins with the Constitution's framers and how they were in unanimous agreement, all of them, from Jefferson to Hamilton, that the power to make war cannot be made by one man. This kind of commitment needs discussion and agreemen
May 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  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
Paul Gleason
Apr 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Jul 21, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"The Constitution supposes, what the History of all Governments demonstrates, that the Executive is the branch of power most interested in war, and most prone to it. It has accordingly with studied care vest the question of the war in the Legislature." -James Madison (124)

"We all have an interest in America having an outstanding military, but that aim is not helped by exempting the military from the competition for resources. With no check on its growth and no rival for its political influence,
Tony Heyl
Apr 21, 2012 rated it it was ok
I did something bad. I judged the book by its cover.

Well, really, I judged it by its title. When I first heard about Drift, I thought it was a great idea. Rachel Maddow is one of the very few political talkers that I can listen to because of her calm, well reasoned arguments. The premise of the book, at least as far as I understood it, was to talk about how America became ok with a constant state of war and how war could go on with little opposition. It is an important topic worthy of discussio
David Rubenstein
Jun 22, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: politics
The main idea of this book, is that in recent decades it has become too easy for America to go to war. America's recent presidents have been gradually setting precedents for taking the country to war. Congress has been far too slack in checking this power in the hands of one person. Too often, Congress has not had a healthy debate on the wisdom of going to war. Sometimes presidents have simply acted covertly; Reagan comes to mind with the Iran/Contra affair and the attack on Grenada. At other ti ...more
Mar 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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:
Jul 23, 2012 rated it liked it
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
David Thompson
Jun 30, 2012 rated it really liked it
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 t
Christopher Gerrib
Apr 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Apr 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Published 5 years ago but relevant as all hell to today. My favorite quote (among many) from it:

"America's structural disinclination toward war [by its Constitution requiring the President to obtain the approval of Congress before declaring war] is not a sign that something's wrong. It's not a bug in the system. It is the system. It's the way the founders set us up--to ensure our continuing national health. Every Congress is meddlesome, disinclined toward war, and obstructive of a President's de
Feb 04, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Debbie "DJ"
May 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing

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
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Rachel Maddow is host of the Emmy Award–winning Rachel Maddow Show on MSNBC, as well as the author of Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power, a #1 New York Times bestseller. Maddow received a bachelor’s degree in public policy from Stanford University and earned her doctorate in political science at Oxford University. She lives in New York City and Massachusetts with her partner, artist S ...more

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8 likes · 3 comments
“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.” 20 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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