Maddow’s well-researched and illuminating analysis of our increasingly costly and bloated national security system is timely as we end our military occupation of Iraq and prepare to withdraw American combatants from Afghanistan in 2014.
Maddow reminds us that since the end of World War 22, the United States has invested eight-trillion-dollars in its national security and in the absence of permanent conflict, she says, “that investment finds another reason to live.” The reason to live is permanent war.
The value I derived from Maddow”s DRIFT is that she attempts to raise public consciousness regarding our attraction to war and how we have “normalized our national wartime.” In the words of the New York Times media critic David Carr, Maddow writes we’ve become a nation “at peace with being at war.” The indictment is startling to some but not to those who have invested careers in advocacy for increasingly larger and more powerful national security institutions.
Maddow examines how we have evolved from our Founders’ original intent that decisions to take this country into war be “difficult, deliberate, wrenching, and collective” to war making as an almost autonomous function of the American state. It never stops!
Here is why DRIFT is timely: Americans today are in the throes of a national debate about determining and funding our national priorities with an economy attempting to rebound from the worst recession since the Great Depression. One political party advocates draconian austerity measures for domestic programs while holding the defense/national security budget sacrosanct. The other political party argues for balance between defense and domestic programs. Meanwhile, Maddow notes, the military’s procurement budget doubled between 2000 and 2010.
In the Epilogue, Maddow writes, “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, the superfunded, superempowered national security state has become a leviathan.”
“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. Overall, we’re weaker for it and at enormous cost.”
If you accept the idea – or take the long view – that the U.S. will be involved in persistent conflict to justify the existence of, and to maintain, the world’s most proficient and costly military machine, you need to read DRIFT.
Note: DRIFT is the logical bookend to “Washington Rules – America’s Path to Permanent War” by Andrew J. Bacevich.
Rachel Maddow has hosted the Emmy Award-winning Rachel Maddow Show on MSNBC since 2008. Before that, she was at Air America Radio for the duration of that underappreciated enterprise. She has a doctorate in politics from Oxford and a bachelor’s degree in public policy from Stanford.