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Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power
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Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power [Kindle Edition]

Rachel Maddow
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Product Description


One of the Washington Post’s 50 Notable Works of Nonfiction for 2012
One of Kirkus Reviews’ Best Nonfiction Books of 2012

"Thank Ms. Maddow for picking this and every other fight that Drift provokes. It will be a smarter public debate than the kinds we're used to."
--Janet Maslin, New York Times

"A biting, bracing tour of the rise of American military bloat...Her fix-it ideas aren't facile or smiley-faced. They are a coda to the serious project she's taken on--a project that both plays to her persona and gives it new gravitas...Rachel, if you can get those ideas a serious hearing, you will be much more than TV's funniest wonk."
--Emily Bazelon,

"Maddow’s distinctive voice in Drift is highly intelligent, often incredulous and intermittently and humorously profane...Her thesis, which is passionately and effectively articulated, remind[s] us of how far we have drifted from linking the sacrifices of our armed forces around the world to the citizens at home they so selflessly serve… Maddow…[has] provided readers with a timely and perhaps necessary provocation to examine the far-reaching consequences of the American way of war."
--Gordon M. Goldstein, Washington Post

"Crosses partisan lines and deals with issues that deserve a healthy debate...A compelling, intelligent read filled with Maddow's trademark wit."
--Mary Houlihan, Chicago Sun-Times

"Even though she's an ideological broadcaster, Maddow doesn't resort to demonization and hyperbole. It makes her case much stronger."
--Conor Friedersdorf,

"Lively but serious...This book is a reminder that before Maddow became a face on nighttime television, she was a Rhodes scholar who earned a doctorate in politics at Oxford. But Drift is not heavy reading, and her cheerfully snarky voice is instantly recognizable...A thought-provoking and timely book."
--Scott Shane, New York Times Book Review

"Full of head-smacking stories about America's military meddling and muddling...Maddow sounds an alarm this country needs to hear more than almost any other."
--Catherine Lutz, San Francisco Chronicle

“Provocative...Asks fundamental questions about the process by which the U.S. now goes to war that pretty much never get asked by the media.”

"Thoroughly researched...Written in her signature broadcast style--provocative, satirical, passionate-bordering-on-outrage...Progressive fans of her show may already know what to expect. Yet the book still surprises."
--Minneapolis Star Tribune

“Recommended reading...There's a deadly serious argument here that deserves way more attention than it gets.”
--Kevin Drum,
“Engaging but sobering...With the same kind of substance, wit and charge that make her TV show a top-rated Emmy winner, Maddow details how dubious wars, the exploding "privatization" of the military and a superfunded, superpowered security leviathan have drained our resources...Sometimes it takes a gutsy, determined woman--a Nellie Bly, Rachel Carson, Ida Tarbell, Elizabeth Neuffer, Molly Ivins or Rachel Maddow--to hang a literary lantern on a revolting situation.”
--Austin American-Statesman

"Drift is infused with Maddow’s sharp wit and her vast political knowledge. She dexterously reveals how we became the nation that spends more money on militarism then all other nations combined...“The path to American amnesia is worth recalling on this Memorial Day,” wrote Tom Englehardt. If you want to jog your memory, I encourage you to dive into Maddow’s brilliant testament to remembering."

is a provocative, important book that displays all the qualities of its author: intelligence, humor, depth, and originality. Maddow raises vital questions about how the American ways of war have changed and endangered our democracy, but she does so without cant or predictability. America’s most charismatic liberal has crafted here an argument for skepticism about our military-industrial complex that will persuade many conservatives--a remarkable achievement."
--STEVE COLL, author of Ghost Wars
With her savage wit, dazzling command of facts, and eye for the absurd, Maddow tells the epic story of how American warfare came to be both never-ending and practically invisible. In the process, she revives a radically old-fashioned idea: waging war should be wrenchingly difficult for a nation, for that is what prevents unnecessary battles from being waged. This courageous book deserves to spark a national debate about the purpose of war.”
--NAOMI KLEIN, author of The Shock Doctrine
In Drift, Rachel Maddow brings her passion, wit, cool common sense and intellectual firepower to the epic and darkly farcical story of how America has declined into an overfunded and unchecked national security state--one that inflicts more damage on America’s assets, our military included, than it does on our adversaries. At a crossroads when Americans of all stripes are rethinking their country’s priorities, Maddow’s compelling take on how we drifted into the costly habit of perennial war--and how we might yet reverse it--could not be more timely.”
--FRANK RICH, writer-at-large, New York magazine
"Here's this conservative's assessment of Rachel Maddow's Drift:  It's scathingly funny, deeply insightful, and informed throughout by a deep and abiding sense of patriotism. Bravo, Rachel!”
--ANDREW J. BACEVICH, author of Washington Rules: America's Path to Permanent War
"Written with the flair for scintillating satire that has endeared Rachel Maddow to liberals and moderates alike--and infuriated neo-conservatives, evangelicals, and some tea partiers--Drift is funny, rich, and right. But at its end, when you put it down, you will be troubled. We are losing our republic and Ms. Maddow tells you why."   
--LAWRENCE WILKERSON, Professor of Government and Public Policy at the College of William and Mary and former chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell
“America is in urgent need of a real debate over its addiction to sprawling militarism and endless war. It affects, and degrades, every aspect of national life: political, cultural, and economic. Nobody is better positioned to trigger that debate than Rachel Maddow, and that's exactly what she does in this startlingly insightful and well-written book. By stripping away the propaganda that distorts national security policy and laying bare its reality, Maddow has written one of those rare political books that can transform Americans' understanding of what their government is actually doing.”
--GLENN GREENWALD, columnist for Salon and author of Liberty and Justice for Some 
“Rachel Maddow's Drift is a long overdue and provocative examination of the abuses, excesses and just plain foolish elements in our national security systems. These are issues that deserve our attention.
--TOM BROKAW, NBC News Special Correspondent and best-selling author of The Greatest Generation
Drift never makes the case that war might be necessary. America would be weakened dramatically if we had underreacted to 9/11. However, Rachel Maddow makes valid arguments that our country has been drifting towards questionable wars, draining our resources, without sufficient input and time. People who like Rachel will love the book. People who don’t will get angry, but aggressive debate is good for America. Drift is a book worth reading.”
--ROGER AILES, Chairman and CEO, FOX News
Drift is a serious and carefully-conceived piece of investigative reporting, illuminating a subject--the vast and mostly secret militarization of our society--that most Americans have no idea of, thanks in large part to the failure of many high-profile journalists to discuss it. Rachel has once again broken the mold and she should be immensely proud of this book, which is written in the same bright, clear, engaging style she brings to broadcast television.”
--MATT TAIBBI, author of Griftopia
“In Drift, people who love Rachel Maddow will discover that her gift for finding amazing anecdotes and funny, revealing details totally translates to the page. People who hate her may be surprised by how often in Drift she espouses some of the most conservative values: a suspicion of big government and unbridled federal power, a zeal to cut wasteful spending and a yearning to return to the intentions of the Founding Fathers.”  
--IRA GLASS, host of public radio’s “This American Life”  
Brilliant book. Drift will stun Americans with its portrait of a hyperventilating United States that has produced too many real live Dr. Strangelove moments. Drawing from thoughtful, national interest-driven conservatives and not just the liberal establishment, Maddow makes the case that what ought to be a strong nation is instead risking shipwreck, by letting war and military matters escape real political and economic gravitational forces. Every page informs and angers at the same time.”
--STEVE CLEMONS, Washington editor-at-large, The Atlantic

Product Description

The #1 New York Times bestseller that charts America’s dangerous drift into a state of perpetual war.

Written with bracing wit and intelligence, Rachel Maddow's Drift argues that we've drifted away from America's original ideals and become a nation weirdly at peace with perpetual war. To understand how we've arrived at such a dangerous place, Maddow takes us from the Vietnam War to today's war in Afghanistan, along the way exploring Reagan's radical presidency, the disturbing rise of executive authority, the gradual outsourcing of our war-making capabilities to private companies, the plummeting percentage of American families whose children fight our constant wars for us, and even the changing fortunes of G.I. Joe. Ultimately, she shows us just how much we stand to lose by allowing the scope of American military power to overpower our political discourse. 
   Sensible yet provocative, dead serious yet seri­ously funny, Drift will reinvigorate a "loud and jangly" political debate about our vast and confounding national security state.

Product Details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1306 KB
  • Print Length: 290 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: B009IBX0WC
  • Publisher: Crown (March 27 2012)
  • Sold by: Random House Canada, Incorp.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B005BUG6T8
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #136,046 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
3.8 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Intelligent, witty, and well argued April 28 2012
By J. Tobin Garrett TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Read this review, and others, on my blog Andbutalso: [...]

OK, I have to admit right off the bat: I probably wouldn't have picked this book up as soon as I did if it wasn't for the fact that it was written by Rachel Maddow. I'm not a big reader of American military history, or American history at all for that matter. It's not that I don't find it interesting or important, but just that, well, there's so much to know that it feels daunting. I'm not sure exactly where to start.

Maddow's book is a slim 200 pages (the rest is sources), but she packs a lot into it. Her central thesis is that going to war in America has gone from something that used to cause upheaval amongst the entire country to something that is almost barely noticed, carried out often in secret, increasingly by orders of the President as opposed to debated openly and approved by Congress, and with more and more private companies at the helm. She writes:

While America has been fighting two of its longest-ever boots-on-the-ground wars in the decade following 9/11, and fighting them simultaneously, less than one percent of the adult US population has been called upon to strap on those boots'Half of the American public says it has not been even marginally affected by ten years of constant war. We've never in our long history been further from the ideal of the citizen-soldier, from the idea that America would find it impossible to go to war without disrupting civilian life.

So, how did the US get to this point?
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5.0 out of 5 stars Timely and telling! Nov. 24 2014
By ronbc TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Kindle Edition
Most of the right-wing political books I’ve read, and some of the left-wing works, too, are little more than propaganda polemics — the other guys are evil, and we need to stop them! You might think that a book by a prominent TV host who leans strongly to the left would be just another entry in the spin game, but in this case you’d be wrong.

MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow’s book delivers the insight expected of an academic, which Maddow is, and the humour expected of an entertainer, which Maddow also is. What it doesn’t deliver is a one-sided, shrill, or simplistic analysis of the changes in the way that America wages war, changes that have dramatically altered U.S. policy, and society, in the last few decades.

More than anything else, Maddow’s book presents a balanced analysis of how the Founders’ vision of a small, citizen-controlled military has morphed into the present situation, in which the U.S. outspends the rest of the world combined on “defense,” utilizing that vast budget to wage undeclared, unofficial, and sort-of official wars around the globe.

How did the U.S., with a Constitution that clearly invests the power to declare war in the Senate, end up with war by executive fiat, with both Republican and Democratic presidents from Eisenhower to Obama claiming the exclusive and individual right to go to war?

The answer is complex, and "Drift" takes the time to explore all of the contributing factors. No one gets a free pass. Congress, presidents of both parties, the military, the corporations that make their money in defense, and the public are given their shares of the blame.

It’s not a conspiracy. That's one way that "Drift" differs from many other political books. There's no conspiracy, no evil dictator, no anti-American cabal.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars what I expected June 28 2012
By busmar
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
First time ordered was not available. Have it now... and it's my mind-diversion reading from all the other texts I must plough through. What I expected and enjoy from Rachel.
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1.0 out of 5 stars One Star Nov. 25 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.6 out of 5 stars  826 reviews
842 of 896 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Important, Passionate, and Well Supported Argument March 27 2012
By Book Fanatic - Published on
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.
274 of 317 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Life Of Its Own March 27 2012
By The Spinozanator - Published on
"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.
132 of 154 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This book needs greater awarness April 2 2012
By Quinn007 - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
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.
315 of 377 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Where will this Drift towards Privatizing our Democracy Ultimately lead? March 27 2012
By Herbert L Calhoun - Published on
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 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:

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

and (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
143 of 173 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Liberals, true Conservatives, & Libertarians should all like this book March 28 2012
By Sarasotan - Published on
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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