Rachel Maddow’s “Drift” sums up America’s distorted view of war

Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power by Rachel Maddow, host of The Rachel Maddow Show on MSNBC, discusses how America no longer realizes the danger, the sacrifice, and the just plain ugliness of war. Instead, we have “become a nation weirdly at peace with perpetual war.” War “is the new normal for America. It should not be like that,” the author from Castro Valley said.

Maddow begins her book by describing how the United States has been spending money for national security. The town she lives in, located in Hampshire County, Massachusetts, recently received new developments, including a new fire engine, a building to house the fire engine, and “Little Guantánamo,” the pump house that was the town’s water system that is now fenced off with an eight foot high electric fence. She goes on to describe the “big-ticket stuff” too, such as the $108 million dollars used to build  a sewage system in Fallujah, Anbar Province, Iraq that not only causes a “big stink” in the city, but is only connected to one fourth of the residents. Seventeen million square feet of Sensitive Compartmentalized Information Facilities (SCIF) have been built–all this to increase security, yet no one really knows if it is making us safer.

Thomas Jefferson once said: “One of my favorite ideas is, never to keep an unnecessary soldier.” For a while, that did happen: people were joining the army to fight a war and leaving after the war was fought. In World War I for example, four million soldiers fought; but after the war, the US Armed Forces downsized and 300 thousand soldiers remained.

However, the first sign of “drifting” occurred under President Lyndon Johnson. During the Vietnam War, instead bringing in the Reserves and the National Guard, he increased the draft. This way, he could bring a nation’s forces to war without involving Congress.

President Ronald Reagan played in part in causing the drifting. After the Vietnam War, the Army had to recruit people by persuading them, tempting them with money, benefits, and adventure. The Reagan administration gave the Army more than enough money to spend. Reagan persuaded NATO to put nuclear-armed missiles throughout Europe and Congress to financially support the “Star Wars” system, General Graham’s plan to defend against Soviet attacks. In the end, he managed to convince people that there are more evil people to fight and battle than those “behind the Iron Curtain.”

The book continues, taking the reader through Reagan’s entire presidency, up to the Iran-Contra affair, which played a huge role in America’s drifting.

Maddow also describes how former presidents George Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush, in addition to other political figures such as former vice presidents Al Gore and Dick Cheney (who Maddow dedicated the book to and wants an interview from) also contributed to the drifting.

Drift is an amazing book that clearly, thoroughly, and entertainingly (with numerous splashes of humor) describes Maddow’s point of view on how America has drifted from the original beliefs and philosophies that served as the base of the establishment of this country. War is no longer seen as the terrible and violent reality it is. However, change is possible and necessary.

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