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Fun-Awful Dissertation

Drift, by Rachel Maddow


image via moviespad.com

Had Maddow not already obtained a doctorate in political science, and had she not already made her bones as a Rhodes scholar, this book would have made a competent doctoral dissertation. Heck, other members of the press have already grilled her about the book, and judging by what I’ve seen, she’s comported herself admirably. So I’d say she’s passed her orals one mo’ time. I would have to wonder, though, how a dissertation committee would have reacted to her occasional wry wit and casual but almost always impassioned voice (virtually the same as her speaking voice). the author seems to have fun at what she does, even when the subject is as dire as this one. But to the book.

The central idea in Drift lies in her chronicling of the somewhat innocent way in which the U.S. Congress has gradually ceded the right to declare war to the President. Her investigatory data isn’t controversial; it’s all a matter of record. Congress has been more than glad to cede these responsibilities, for the most overt of political reasons: dodging that often controversial duty in order not to have it hanging over their heads at election time.

With this shift of war-making from the legislative to the executive has come with a move to increasingly hire mercenaries – again for those most overt of political reasons – and Congress and the U.S. public has gone along, largely because the spate of mini- and not-so-mini-wars since the Reagan era has asked little in the way of commitment of the public at large and has had relatively little personal impact on the public – much less so than had there been a draft, as in the Vietnam era. But is this way of waging war cost-effective? NOT! We now spend more on our military than all the world’s other militaries put together.

Finally, Maddow turns to the 2,000 or so U.S. nuclear weapons either in storage or deployed today. Some are deteriorating, some have been lost, others juggled ineptly. And this with all the money in the world to be spent on things military.



image via articles.latimes.com


This is an awful subject, but Maddow has taken it on admirably. All told, her critique here is one of a cold war mindset that refuses to thaw. I could quibble with a few of her judgments; still for U.S. citizens across the political spectrum, Drift should be a must-read.


My rating: 18 of 20 stars