Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power

Rachel Maddow. Crown, $25 (288p) ISBN 978-0-307-46098-1
A bloated, secretive, lawless national security state is pilloried in this scathing but shallow critique of America’s post-Vietnam defense policies. MSNBC talk-show host Maddow recaps milestones in a decadeslong process of giving presidents dangerously convenient and unaccountable war-making powers: the Reagan administration’s gigantic military buildup, Iran-Contra illegalities, and assertions of executive privilege; the supplanting of soldiers with private contractors under Clinton and Bush fils; the growth of the CIA’s secret drone air force; the many invasions, from Grenada to Iraq, launched by commanders-in-chief without constitutional authority. The author presents sharp, well-supported analyses of these episodes, spicing them with a caustic wit that skewers everything from Army recruitment ads to the Air Force’s habit of accidentally dropping or misplacing its nuclear warheads. She’s less cogent in blaming America’s adventurism on the neglect of the Constitution’s requirement that Congress declare war (many inane conflicts, like the Spanish-American War, passed that hurdle) and the lapse of the tradition of calling up the citizen-soldiers of the Reserves and National Guard, which she believes puts a brake on war-mongering (although the Iraq War call-up, she allows, had no such effect). Maddow’s incisive look at the follies of militarism needs a deeper understanding of why America has so often embraced it. Agent: Laurie Liss, Sterling Lord Literistic. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 02/20/2012
Release date: 03/27/2012
Genre: Nonfiction
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