Excerpts from Rachel Maddow’s “Drift,” part I

I recently finished reading Rachel Maddow’s book, Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power. I highly recommend all read this book, as Maddow lays out systematically how far US militarism has drifted from the nation’s origins. In this, and a follow-up post, I include excerpts from the book. These aren’t a systematic outlining of Maddow’s argument, but merely passages that I found particularly compelling. I encourage all to reflect on them, as our nation figures out how to reject this permanent, profitable war-making state we’re in and turn towards a peaceful co-existence with the world.

“The framers clogged up the works by making the decision to go to war a communal one. By vesting it in the Congress — a large, slow-moving deliberative body of varied and often competing viewpoints — the Constitution assured that the case for any war would have to be loud, well argued, and made in plain view. The people’s representatives would be forced to take time and care to weigh the costs against the benefits.” [p. 23-24]

“Military action was a first resort for the Reagan team, not a last resort. It’s not like they tried much else. They didn’t even bother to get good information about what was actually happening on the island, or to verify what little they did get…And frankly, this was an administration eager to use the military in a way that would let the president say things like ‘America is back.’…No, the real energy inside the Reagan administration was expended on preparing a full-out combat operation, and preparing to justify it after the fact.” [p. 79-80]

“The toll [of invading Grenada under the Reagan administration] in the end was this: 19 American servicemen killed (17 from friendly fire or accidents), 120 Americans wounded, 300 Grenadians killed or wounded, including those 18 mental patients killed in their beds. And also, precedent: operational secrecy justifying flat-out lying to the press corps and therein to the public. Secrecy, again, and the blunt assertion of executive prerogative justifying a cursory dismissal of the constitutional role of Congress in declaring a war, and even of the need to consult them.” [p. 89-90]

“It’s not a conspiracy. Rational political actors, acting rationally to achieve rational (if sometimes dumb) political goals, have attacked and undermined our constitutional inheritance from men like Madison. For the most part, though, they’ve not done it to fundamentally alter the country’s course but just to get around understandably frustrating impediments to their political goals…By 9/11, the war-making authority in the United States had become, for all intents and purposes, uncontested and unilateral: one man’s decision to make. It wasn’t supposed to be like this.” [p. 125]

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