“How did we get here?” is a good question to start a story off, piquing the reader’s interest in what twists and turns brought these characters to this (usually strange) point. It is this question that Rachel Maddow uses to start off her exploration of the American military complex in her book Drift.
Beginning with a description of our current situation, with a military that is overbudgeted, undermonitored, and out of control, Maddow traces our “drift” away from a traditional, controlled military. Her history starts at the beginning of Vietnam and the introduction of secrecy to the president’s use of the military forces. Then, she leads us through the Reagan years with the explosion in military budget and undercutting of military oversight, before finally dropping us into the current age of intelligence monitoring, drone strikes, and democracy-by-force tactics.
Maddow is an unabashedly left-wing commentator. She makes no efforts to hide her political leanings. Her sense of humor can also be quite caustic, meaning this may be an aggravating book if you’re highly conservative. However, Maddow’s research is extensive and her commentary spot-on. She stays objective in her analysis of the developments in our military establishment and our drift away from openness, constraint, and rational planning. Regardless of party affiliation, all readers can find this book a very useful, and very affecting, lesson on what has become of our military since Vietnam.