I love to read. I really do. I love to get so involved in a book that I just can't put it down, a book that I would rather read than do just about anything else, even sleep. I also love to read something that will make my brain a little smarter. Unfortunately, those two things aren't always found in the same book. Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power by Rachel Maddow is one of those books. I try to keep politics to myself unless asked, but being a Rachel Maddow fan may just give away my leanings. Luckily, this book is more about the politics of war than anything else so hopefully that will help us avoid any of those sticky social issues that seem to get people so upset. Anyway, as I was saying, this book, while I'm sure it made me smarter, did not draw me in and hold my attention as I might have hoped. That is not to say that it was not well written and full of compelling information; it certainly was that, but it wasn't an engrossing novel, which is what I usually read.
That being said, I learned so much reading this book. And I learned how much I really do need to learn. I am a bit embarrassed to admit that I had no idea what Grenada was all about and almost nothing about the Iran-Contra scandal. Obviously I need to read more books like this one.
Drift begins with this quote: "Of all the enemies to public liberty, war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes, and armies, and debts, and taxes are the known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few....No nation could reserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare" This was not said by some liberal, tree-hugging hippie with no job and in need of a haircut or a member of Code Pink. These words were brought to you by James Madison, the "Father of the Constitution" and the fourth President of the United States of America. He said these words way back in 1795. I believe these are words worth reviewing. Our founding fathers intended it to be difficult to go to war. It was their intention that our nation rarely be at war and to make it difficult to go. Unfortunately, it has become easier and easier in the last century to engage in war and it is now almost expected that if there is a problem in the world, the United States of America will be there to fix it. Drift explains how our approach to war has changed and predicts where it will take us as a nation.
This book discusses the issues of American lives changed and taken during war, the massive amounts of money spent during a war, the use of private contractors overseas doing jobs that were formerly held by US military personnel. Also addressed are the political ramifications of war, nation-building, the desire for a "New World Order" and the possible conflict of interest of a member of the executive branch of government also being the CEO of a defense contracting corporation.
One topic I find especially disturbing is the fact that less than one percent of the adult population is currently serving in the US military during a time that we have been at war for over a decade. Unfortunately, it is far too easy for must of us to forget that there actually is a war going on. We're too busy watching Snooki fall down in a bar again or Kim getting married and divorced in the blink of an eye. It echos the words spoken by an Army NCO to a young lieutenant in the Vietnam War novel, Fields of Fire by James Webb:
"It ain't what happens here that's important. It's what's happening back there...You'd hardly know there was a war on. It's in the papers, and college kids run around screaming about it instead of doing panty raids or whatever they were running around doing before but that's it. Airplane drivers still drive their airplanes. Businessmen still run their businesses. College kids still go to college. It's like nothing really happened, except to other people. It isn't touching anybody except us. It makes me sick, Lieutenant....We've been abandoned, Lieutenant....They don't know how to fight it, and they don't know how to stop fighting it. And back home it's too complicated, so they forget about it and do their rooting at football games. Well, [screw] 'em. They ain't worth dying for."
This isn't a book everyone will enjoy, it's certainly not light reading, but it is full of a lot of interesting information about which I'm afraid a lot of us just don't want to think. And in case any of you are now questioning my patriotism, let me say that I do support the troops. I just think the best way to do that is to bring them home to their families and to take the most extreme caution when engaging in any further wars.