Customer Reviews: Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power
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Regardless of whether or not you like Rachel Maddow or agree with her politics, and I'm not generally much of a fan, you owe it to yourself to read this book. It should be required reading for anyone who cares about the U.S., our heritage, military policy, and future. You don't have to agree with her but you should at least consider what she has to say on the topic.

This is a terrific book. I believe that Ms. Maddow has done a remarkable job of defending her argument. I saw her on Meet The Press and she said she saved this topic for a book because it required "a long argument". Reading her long argument felt like being on an island of common sense in a vast ocean of madness.

This book is not partisan although many will see it that way. She reserves as much criticism for Obama's secret wars as she does those of other presidents. The bulk of the early part of the book is about Reagan's secret wars and the Iran-Contra scandal and then she traverses the next couple of decades, including the last decade of seemingly endless wars in the Middle East, and ends with Obama's secret CIA drone wars. Her wit is very sarcastic and scathing at times, but this can be overlooked as one considers the actual content of her arguments. I'm sure that to people who don't agree with her will find this part of her writing to be off-putting, but we can all be bigger than that. There is substance in this book and the substance is what should be considered. The tone is just part of being a passionate human and actually gives the writing some character and humor.

She calls the military superstructure we have built a leviathan. It's a great beast that is out of control and has gained a life of its own that is disconnected from average Americans and control by Congress in ways the founders never intended. The President has way too much control to wage war without Congressional approval and the Congress is weak and fails to exercise what oversight it does retain. Americans are for the most part unaffected by the perpetual war with the exception of a tiny percentage of soldiers and their families. This is not the way it was supposed to be argues Maddow.

She argues, quite persuasively, that the founding fathers never intended that we would be in a perpetual state war with a massive standing military for the President to use as he sees fit. There are parts of this book that are depressing and even downright scary. I think it hit bottom for me when she describes how there is some formula used to ignite hydrogen bombs that nobody knows how to make anymore. I guess they didn't write it down and all the people who knew how to do it are now gone. Doesn't that give you a warm fuzzy?

In any case I highly recommend this book to every thinking reader whether you think you will agree with the author or not. At the very least you will come away with better view of the other side, and that view is one that should make us all very uncomfortable.
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VINE VOICEon March 27, 2012
"Of course the people don't want war. But after all, it's the leaders of the country who determine the policy, and it's always a simple matter to drag the people along whether it's a democracy, a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism, and exposing the country to greater danger." - Hermann Goering in Nuremberg where he was found guilty and sentenced to death for crimes against humanity.

Maddow has written a concise guide about the war economy and mentality our country has fallen into - a mentality that seems to infect every president the moment he enters the White House. At least since Wilson, we have been in virtually continuous war, originally with the excuse of democratizing the world. Some of these squirmishes have protected American corporations in various countries. At times we took sides with democratic regimes and other times we sided with more totalitarian groups (See "America's Mission" by Tony Smith. It chronicles the wars each president has engaged in since Wilson).

More recently, as Maddow describes, the privatization craze has extended to the war business. We have been involved in little undeclared wars that we have rarely even heard about. We spend more money on our military than the next umpteen countries combined. Our brave all volunteer recruits constitute an ever diminishing segment of our population and the recent wars have exacted a tremendous toll on them and their families. We support a huge war industry that demands to be fed and buys off our elected representatives. No wonder we can't seem to afford good things that would better serve our people like universal healthcare.

This book is reasonable, carefully researched, and written with personality. There are other ways to be patriotic than to blindly follow warlike policies that have somehow taken on a life of their own. I highly recommend that you read it.
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on April 2, 2012
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, not just Obama) shield us from the loss of lives, the separations that military families go through, and the heartache of war because it's bad PR (among many other reasons, not just what I've mentioned). And if only a small percentage of American's have to feel that burden and the whole country isn't involved like it was in WWII, than the population is more allowing of the decade long mess that we are still involved in today, or recently with Iraq.

I learned so much from this book on complaints I had while I was in the service, like why are contractors doing the work that we can do ourselves? This complaint was shared with many of my co-workers. Some contractors were doing the exact same job that somebody in the military was doing with double the paycheck. This book tells us why it came to be that way.

I can't recommend this book enough for anybody currently serving in the military. It is very unbiased, very informing, and only through awareness can better decisions be made.
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on March 27, 2012
Ms. Maddow, a Rhodes Scholar and liberal MSNBC Talk Show host, has provocatively tapped into a rich vein of public debate pointing to what in recent years has come to be known as "normalized governmental corruption," involving the "mother" of all corrupt organizations, the military industrial (and now National Security) complex.

This is an issue that none other than the illustrious solid Five Star Republican General, Dwight D. Eisenhower warned us about in his Farwell Address more than a half century ago. The reader may recall that in one of Ike's most solemn speeches as he was leaving office, he said in part that:

" ... In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together."

The author of this book takes a politically balanced point of view, since it is clearly the case that all sides of the political spectrum have been caught "slopping" at the same government trough. Carefully researched but with a hint of "lightness and humor" that can sometimes be "off-putting" -- betraying a lack of seriousness -- she nevertheless hones in on several interrelated themes:

(1) that the military-industrial complex has drifted away from the ideals of the nation into the realm of perpetual war for the sake of war (spelled for the sake of profits);

(2) that wars are fought by soldiers who today are more like mercenaries, since they fight along side and on an equal footing with heavily funded military contractors, to whom our wars are now often being "outsourced to;" and

(3) that the burdens of fighting our wars is not shared equally, with the poor families of our voluntary army carrying the lion's share of the load.

I was mildly disappointed in the fact that the author seemed not to have closed the circle between her thesis about our "changed way of war" and its connection to our political authorities' larger attempt to "privatize everything" in our society? Otherwise she undoubtedly would not have missed that the single link in the chain that connects them are:

(1) the wide-scale corruption of our political process by weak sycophantic politicians,


(2) the missing predicates that places all the responsibility on us that is mentioned in the penultimate line of Eisenhower's Farewell address.

To wit: that "only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together."

That we as a citizenry have fallen down on the job since Ike's warning, seems all but self-evident now, and in itself is shameful. However, the point I think Ms. Maddow has missed is just how prescient General Eisenhower really was: Since his warning, this cancer has spread from the security industrial complex, to the Wall Street cabal, to the prison-industrial complex, to the medical, drug and Pharmaceutical-industrial complex; and will soon be moving on to the health and education industrial complex. In a short time nothing will be left that has not been turned into a globalized profit center, including every individual American?

Once our democracy has been completely strangled by mindless and immoral profitmaking privatizers, we will of course by then have reached the point of no return, far down the road to fascism. And make no mistake about it the potential for sliding into Fascism was exactly what General Eisenhower was warning us about.

These disingenuous attempts by "raiders of democracy for fun and profit" in order to place major aspects of our national functions under the complete control of some form of profitmaking enterprises, and then acting as if this is a patriotic act, have in the process neutered our democracy, outsourced our jobs, stripped away what is left of the social safety net, and rendered our nation infinitely more insecure both socially and militarily. That is precisely why those who are anxious for commercial enterprises to take over every function of our government and every aspect of our democratic freedoms, are also the ones quickest to assail the very government upon whose largesse they depend? They want no controls, no responsibilities and no obligations except to their stockholders' bottom line. But saddest of all, Ike would be considered a "flaming liberal" on today' severely "right-shifted" political spectrum. Three stars
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on March 28, 2012
As a Democrat, while watching the Republican debates I never expected to feel like standing up and cheering about anything they said, but that's how I felt when Ron Paul spoke about foreign policy and wars (his views on economic matters are flawed, but on foreign policy he has some good thoughts). Democrats can agree with Libertarians on the cautions as to war which Rachel expresses in this excellent book. And yes ... even conservatives should like this. TRUE conservatives (not the Neo-Cons). This country HAS drifted from thoughtful discussions before entering into war. We had already headed too far that way before 9/11, but 9/11 gave huge impetus for further drift -- too much fear about being blamed if another attack happened led Presidents to be overly warlike and Congress to be sheep, in going along with War pushes. One gets the feeling that too many members of Congress do not have an educated perspective about the proper, strong role of Congress in War policy. Every politician and voter in America should read this book and get a better perspective, a better sense of history, and work to reassert the proper caution.
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on March 28, 2012
This is a well written and well researched treatise that should be read by all concerned citizens in the US whether liberal or conservative. Ms. Maddow has brought to light the elephant in the room of US foreign policy and war making in a way that is compelling and interesting, but very scary in it's implications. It is not something that many may want to hear as it exposes connections and trends that erode our democracy, but are difficult, if not impossible, to reverse. Hats off to Rachel for tackling this issue with historical perspective, wit, and aplomb! 5 stars ***** highly recommended.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon March 29, 2012
Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power by Rachel Maddow

"Drift" is the intriguing book about American military policy and how it has "drifted" from the original vision of our Founding Fathers. The most troubling aspect of Maddow's well-argumented thesis is how we have become "comfortable" with seemingly unending wars and why that is the case. Rachel Maddow well-known liberal television talk-show host of the suitably titled "Rachel Maddow Show" on MSNBC writes a surprisingly even-handed book and enlightens the reader with fascinating insight into America's penchant for war; most interestingly how this inclination has been often initiated by the sitting President when in fact it is the Congress's job to do so. Written in a style that corresponds to the Maddow we all know from her show; that is with wit, intelligence and provocation this book is commendable and a worthwhile read. This 288-page book is composed of the following nine chapters: 1. G.I. Joe, Ho Chi Minh, and the American Art of Fighting about Fighting, 2. A Nation at Peace Everywhere in the World, 3. Let 'Er Fly, 4. Isle of Spice, 5. Stupid Regulations, 6. Mylanta, 'Tis of Thee, 7. Doing More with Less (Hassle), 8. "One Hell of a Killing Machine", and 9. An $8 Trillion Fungus Among Us.

1. Engaging, witty and provocative style makes for a fun read.
2. Timely and fascinating topic in the hands of an intellectual.
3. Maddow does a wonderful job of supporting her arguments.
4. Surprisingly even handed. Maddow goes through every presidency from Johnson on.
5. Interesting anecdotes and enlightening insights into the minds of the presidents. In some cases even providing actual comments from their diaries.
6. The main thesis in this book is how and why we "drifted" into this seemingly self-sustaining military monster and how it has detached itself from its citizenry to a disturbing comfortable level. Throughout this book and from Johnson to Obama, Maddow makes her strong case.
7. Interesting military and political history. Our treatment of post-World War II veterans...
8. How Creighton Abrams restructured the Army to make it more difficult for a commander in chief to go to war; better known as the Abrams Doctrine.
9. Interesting look at why Carter lost the presidency.
10. Marketing the Army.
11. The book really takes off with Reagan. Fascinating stuff!
12. Understanding the impact of wars and the national budget.
13. An inside look at the "outside experts" better known as Team B.
14. The unbelievable and insane Cold War race.
15. Reagan and his quest to overthrow socialist and communist regimes.
16. Grenada in perspective.
17. Tip O'Neill and his rollercoaster relationship with Reagan.
18. The Iran-Contra scandal.
19. Georg H. Bush and Colin Powell's Doctrine of disproportionate force.
20. How presidents circumvented the political system to their advantage. Maddow does a great job of showing the reader how each president used the system to their advantage.
21. Using the private industry to compliment and at times even replace the government. Private contractor scandals.
22. How LOGCAP became the darling of technocrats on both sides of the political aisle.
23. The Balkans conflict.
24. Some mind-blowing facts, "By 2001, even the peacetime US Military budget was well over half the size of all the other military budgets in the world combined".
25. The surprise mission in Abbottabad and Osama bin Laden the Target.
26. The use of secret drones.
27. The art of frictionless war.
28. General Petraeus' Counterinsurgency Field Manual.
29. In the final chapter, Maddow really lays into the nuclear issues facing America and the unbelievable costs associated with it not to mention the dangers involved.
30. The cost of our nukes, $8 trillion in today's dollars!
31. The madness that is Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD).
32. Nuclear close calls, disturbing to say the least. "Overall, the US admits to having lost track of eleven nuclear bombs over the years".
33. The gap between regular and active-duty forces and the rest of us. Well stated case.
34. An excellent to-do list of how we can change and properly address the issues brought up in the book.

1. No formal bibliography.
2. "We can cede their point that the world is a threatening place". How threatening? In the recent and excellent book, "The Better Angels of Our Nature: How Violence Has Declined" Steven Pinker makes the compelling case that violence has declined significantly over the years. The aforementioned book would actually solidify Maddow's claim and provided her with empirical data to tie into her well thought-out conclusions.
3. The somewhat obscure yet clever title may throw you off early on in the book. Maddow doesn't adequately prepare the reader for things to come but once she gets going (starting with Reagan) the book takes off.
4. Lack of charts and illustrations would have added value. This is the perfect topic for such charts: budget breakdowns, list of wars and conflicts America is involved with, nuclear weapons, etc...
5. Lack of links in Kindle.
6. Some missed opportunities. The overkill of Homeland Security. Even though Maddow does mention the financial burden of all the wars...I think she understates just how enormous this Government agency and the current impact it has today.
7. Overall, very solid book but there's a part of me that tells me Maddow could have done better and this is just an appetizer for much better books to come.

In summary, I enjoyed reading this book. Maddow's witty and engaging style makes for a fun and enlightening read. I wished she would have tied her thesis to the declining violence in the world and provided charts that would have made her conclusions even stronger. That being said, Maddow succeeds in providing compelling and well-reasoned arguments in support of her main thesis: that presidents on their own instigation have built a "Leviathan" of a military machine with little congressional oversight at the expense of its citizenry. Maddow ties her thesis up quite effectively in the epilogue and provides a cogent to-do list. Drift is worth reading and in fact reads better the second time around as you will grasp with more precision her thesis. I highly recommend this book and I look forward to future contributions in the future.

Further recommendations: "The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined" by Steven Pinker, "The Post-American World" by Fareed Zakaria, "Decision Points" by George Bush, "Against All Enemies: Inside America's War on Terror" Richard A. Clarke, "Society without God: What the Least Religious Nations Can Tell Us About Contentment" by Phil Zuckerman, "Spycraft: The Secret History of the CIA's Spytechs, from Communism to Al-Qaeda" by Robert Wallace and H. Keith Melton, "Military Gadgets: How Advanced Technology is Transforming Today's Battlefield...and Tomorrow's" by Nicholas D. Evans, "SEAL Team Six: Memoirs of an Elite Navy SEAL Sniper" by Howard E. Wasdin, and "The Republican Brain: The Science of Why They Deny Science--and Reality" by Chris Mooney.
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on March 31, 2012
Drift is one of those conveniently smallish books where 275 pages generates enough questions to fill a 900 page volume, and that is where its value lies. This is a book that makes you think! In fact it takes you longer to read it because you have to stop so often to work out the pros and cons of what you have just read. Strangely enough that in itself makes the reading of this book even more interesting.
One is left to wonder which way our future will fall when it comes to government run institutions verses private contractors. Maddow champions a return to government control, though she clearly illustrates that in real life sometimes the people control the government and sometimes they are manipulated by the government or the Industrial giants into being a subordinate follower.
When all the arguments are boiled down, a lot of what this book is about is whether our decisions to go to war should be made by one man, our president or the 250 members of Congress. I wouldn't trust any decision of today's congress and would favor the president. But if one of the present candidates, say Santorum, was to become president then I would trust any political body, including the PTA to make a better decision. And therein lies the bigger problem that the author doesn't address.
This book unleashes thousands of questions and though the author offers up some answers, the facts she puts forward forces the reader to think most of it out on their own and that gives this work incredible depth. This is an easy, light read that leads you into many dark places where decisions will have to be made soon, because not making them will drive us more into a Military democracy and away from the Capitalist democracy we have always been. A worthwhile and very necessary read.
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on March 28, 2012
This is quite an accomplishment: a clear assessment of how we close we have come to a state of endless war(s), but also a story of human, but not evil, elected officials who lose perspective and commit the nation to a series of very serious errors. We see how American citizens sometimes turn against the current war, but we also see how quickly politicians sense and manipulate our war-mindedness in an effort to get elected. And the cycle goes on.
Rachel Maddow not only defines a progressive position that is to the left of the Democrats. More importantly, she illumines a position above both parties that represents a simple, humane, good sense more prevalent in the electorate than in those we are governed by. And to the extent that such decency can survive the manipulation of hungry politicians, we the people could set a far higher standard for our leaders and support them when they stay on course toward a true democracy.
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on March 28, 2012
I can only add my concurrence to the positive reviews of Ms. Maddow's book already posted. The book will be as relevant in the future as it is now. It points out a systemic problem that may be now unfixable bucause of institutionalized partisan interests and rampant corruption. I am reminded of President Eishenhower's farewell speech in which he cautioned against the corrupting influence of the military-industrial complex. His remarks fell on deaf ears just as those of Gen. Douglas MacArthur when he advised the nation, based on vast experience, never to enter into a ground war in Southeast Asia. As to what will happen next, I am reminded of the remarks of Benjamin Franklin made at the conclusion of the constitutional convention. He stated, in part, that "...[T]here is no FORM* of Government but what may be a Blessing to the People if well administered; and I believe farther that this is likely to be well administered for a Course of Years, and can only end in Despotism as other Forms have done before it, when the People shall become so corrupted as to need Despotic Government being incapable of any other." (* Original in italics.)

Under the existing system the president can deploy troops without Congressional approval, initiate military action and dare Congress to deny funding for "our men and women fighting for our freedom and security". They won't act because the folks back home don't want our troops denied anything. Even if the president doesn't request congressional consent within the time limits, what's going to happen? What would happen is the same kind of nothing that happened to former Vice President Cheney when he was held in contempt of Congress.

The outlook for our counry is dark and foreboding which is ironic since we, more than any other nation in the world, posses the capability to turn around our economy, maintain our security and have enough left over to provide for the common welfare on a grand scale. The resources are there and the only question is how they are allocated. I wonder if we, having the knowledge that we do, can prevail over the Koch brothers and others like them to force our elected representatives to do the right thing and preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.
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