Dr. Maddow’s central premise is that the nature of the American national security apparatus, and particularly the manner by which the nation goes to war and fights wars has, in the latter half of the 20th century, diverted from the original vision of the founders, to the detriment of the country and our democratic experiment. It’s a premise with which I agree wholeheartedly, and in Drift, The Unmooring of American Military Power, I have finally found a cogent, concise articulation of that belief, as well as a prescription to cure the sick. In their zeal to limit executive power, the founders particularly granted power to declare war to the legislative branch, as they thought that the political and emotional need of the executive in particular, and the nation as whole, would prove too tempting were it easily doable. She briefly discusses the end of the war in Viet Nam, and she notes the work of General Creighton Abrams, who had commanded US forces in Viet Nam and later, from 1972 to his death in 1974 served as Army Chief of Staff and restructured the Army to force subsequent presidents and congresses to have to deal with the political fallout of war by making it impossible to go to war without using the Reserve and National Guard forces and thereby making members of congress more directly involved. It was one thing for President Johnson to keep raising the number of draftees, and thereby killing and maiming hometown boys one by one, but another thing entirely for a congressman to contemplate twenty boys from his district being killed in one day.
She discusses briefly how President Nixon and Secretary of State Kissinger despised General Abrams “he had his chance to win a war and he blew it” and how Nixon and his lackeys, including his White House chief of staff, Donald Rumsfeld, and later Ford’s chief of staff Dick Cheney (Yes, you’re going to see these names over and over again,) held the position that “when the president does something, something on national security, that means it’s not illegal.”
She goes deeply into the weeds on the Reagan presidency, and his obsession with using military force, and operating foreign relations unchecked by congressional oversight. She gives a point by point recitation of the major events of the Iran-Contra affair and describes the intellectual underpinnings, first articulated by then-Attorney General Edwin Meese in his legal contortionist act to exonerate the President, of the theory of the Unitary Executive and the first defense of that theory by then-congressman Dick Cheney of Wyoming. You would be forgiven if, by the middle of the book, you start to read it as a bill of indictment against the Republican party’s leading lights of the last forty years with a few snarky sideways comments. Even as Maddow doesn’t write as a polemicist but with a cool, simple factual walk-through of events, you still can’t help but feel your anger start to rise a bit at what they’ve done. And the book is better and more effective for the simple, and at times light touch.
Reading Drift, I am left with the feeling that nobody gets out clean. In the run-up to the first Iraq war, congress abrogated their responsibility by first not fighting President Bush hard enough on the issue of war powers and later by kicking the can down the road to after the start of hostilities. As one unnamed Republican senator said “a lot of people here want it both ways. If it works, they want to be with the president. If not, they want to be against him.” She continues with the rise of the contractors, a necessity created by Dick Cheney’s post-cold war/Desert Storm restructuring of the military in such a way that major logistical and support functions that had been by uniformed personnel were eliminated from the end strength as a way to preserve pure combat power. If the service top line is 400,000 personnel, better to get rid of the people who only wash laundry, and only during war, and keep those slots filled with riflemen. Less money spent in peacetime that way, and only spending money during war. That was the promise, anyway. The result was that Presidents Clinton, and Bush II used contracting to replace people. Contractors may be horrendously expensive when you use them, but they are outside oversight, and they finally free the executive from that last fetter on the use of military power, General Abrams’ force structure. The DoD isn’t responsible for what employees of a contractor do. And the DoD doesn’t have to explain anything when contractor employees are killed and wounded either, for that matter.
Drift is at its best when it describes the macro trends that have really shaped the American way of war in the 20th and 21st centuries, and the politics that both created and responded to those pressures. Where it falls down is when Maddow gets into the details of military doctrine, operations, and policy. Her discussion of FM 3-24, Counterinsurgency, seems written by somebody who doesn’t really understand what doctrine is, or how it is developed and used. Similarly, her discussion of the nuclear weapons complex, particularly the US Air Force’s issues with the safety and accountability of nuclear weapons and components is limited by either an inability or an unwillingness to get deep into the subject. Either of these subjects could themselves occupy the full 275 pages of the book, but as Maddow is not a specialist in either field, one can forgive the glossing-over, especially as she gets the salient points, that the Army cannot properly forge doctrine in a vacuum of civilian leadership, and that we have far too many nuclear warheads and delivery systems for any remotely realistic threat, correct. Her epilogue is perhaps the most important piece of writing on civil-military relations of the last ten years.
There was only one mistake of fact that jumped out at me, and it seems a fact checker/copy editor function–pg 111, “Those Marines on his national security staff–Bud McFarlane, John Poindexter, and Oliver North…” John Poindexter was a Rear Admiral in the US Navy. A couple of pages later, she again refers to Poindexter as a Marine “The Attorney General [Meese] threw the Marines–McFarlane, North, and John Poindexter–to the wolves.”
Overall, I thought that it was exceptional. As I said earlier, nobody gets out clean. She takes the Obama administration to task for the growing use of drone aircraft and CIA operations that are not subject to congressional scrutiny. The implication for us all is that we, all of us, are responsible for how our country’s military is used in this world, how it is constructed, trained, equipped, managed, deployed, and most especially how and when it fights wars for this country.
Also, I too have an autographed copy to give away. I haven’t decided how to do that yet. Probably will start another thread just like Anne Laurie’s giveaway. That won’t happen until tomorrow, at the earliest.
Drift Kindle edition
Drift NOOK book
Because what this blog site needs is another post pimping Racheals book.
So add “sell out” to the long list of FAIL on BJ.
Mike in NC
It would be nice to see Rachel have Andrew Bacevich on her show some time to compare notes on our dysfunctional National Security State.
@Daaling: And yet you’re still here.
Sounds like a very important book; one that deserves a hearing. Thanks, Soonergrunt!
Dr. Maddow??? I don’t think anyone ever calls her Dr. Maddow. No one. I think she just always goes by Rachel. Always.
I thought they stopped using units like that after all those boys from Bedford got killed on D-day.
@Daaling: Who is Racheal? If you’re going to shit talk, at least spell her damn name right.
Or maybe just don’t shit talk. If you can possibly manage not to…
Back on topic, looking more and more forward to picking this up tomorrow and getting into it. I really love not just getting excited to read a book, but not being alone in that excitement :) BIBLIONERDS UNITE.
Well, since I didn’t win AL’s contest, I was going to order the book tonight — but if you’re going to make another autographed copy available to some lucky Juicer, maybe I’ll hold off another day.
There are so many “autographed copies” of Maddow’s book floating around, I suspect a robosigning scandal.
I hate it when people confuse book publishing with the few magazines that employ fact checkers. And confusing copyeditors with fact checkers . . . don’t get me started.
Unless someone else introduced the error, it’s Maddow’s fault. End of story.
Let me think, listen to Dr. Maddow or the inane ramblings of Daaling. Okay, figured that out, Dr. Maddow wins every time.
Well, that’s her name. The formal one, at least. She is not “Ms. Maddow.”
yep nothing to see here but if one memeber of the sheeple get this well so be it. I won’t be buying the book because that’s how poor I’m. it’s just more 0 look shiney object.
If anyone here ever has a chance, stop by Bedford’s D-Day Memorial. Probably the most powerful war memorial I’ve seen in the US. Doesn’t gloss or glorify.
Rupert Murdoch is in the shit again. This time it looks reeeeeeeeeeally deep.
While I agree that BJ could have probably picked one person to review it, I’m glad for all the coverage. And I was very glad to read Soonergrunt’s review and get his perspective, him having been many years in the military. This is a vitally important issue that does not get enough coverage, so if BJ goes a bit overboard on the coverage, that’s forgivable.
Is there a Maddow book out? Anyone know?
I want to read Drift, but I’ll wait for it at the local library. Currently reading Emergency State by David Under, which has very much the same premise. His view is that permanent war started with passage of the National Security Act of 1947, which created the CIA, the Department of Defense and the White House National Security Council. it also, among other things, took a great deal of power away from the individual service secretaries (Secretary of the Army, Secretary of the Navy, etc) and gave it to the Secretary of Defense – more concentration of power in the executive branch under a single person.
We haven’t had an actual declaration of war since 1941 and that’s ostensibly the only legal way for a president to order troops into action, barring a sudden invasion, violation of airspace, etc. Yet since then American troops have been ordered onto foreign soil and in many cases to fight and die there more times than I can recall – Greece, Korea, Vietnam, Grenada, Panama, Dominican Republic, Middle East (2x), former Yugoslavia, Somalia, Afghanistan, plus all the dirty little wars and paramilitary actions we never hear about. Hey, Congress let it happen…
@MB: I was in Bedford several years ago, before the Memorial was built. It was on the anniversary of D-day. We were camping on the Blue Ridge Parkway nearby. That’s when I learned about the 29th Infantry Division and the Bedford boys. They were interviewing people on the radio. Even 50 years later the pain from that loss was palpable in those voices. I think that’s part of the reason the memorial doesn’t glorify war. Bedford is too aware of the cost.
What is new is not interesting, etc.
This year is the 52nd? anniversary of Eisenhower’s military industrial complex farewell address. Fears of sheltered professional armies and mercenaries predate the republic. The fuck do we need Rachel Maddow tilling this farmed out land? That might not matter if the individual stories were sufficiently unique and new to make it worthwhile, but, buh? Why should I read a pithy summary of the Iran Contra scandal?
And all that might not matter if it was just a prelude to groundbreaking policy prescriptions, but from the way that everyone always says stuff like “I’ve finally found . . . prescriptions to cure the sick” and then doesn’t talk about them at all, I’m beginning to think they aren’t all that hot. I can guess from the released prologue and excerpt as well as the focus on founding fathers era structural concerns about military adventure that the prescription is more democratic accountability: more people across a wider geographic and economic base directly involved with or at least affected by war efforts, political parties who try to build coalitions around people who give a shit about not going to war, more transparency about what we’re actually doing.
And, if so, (and I want to reiterate that I’m just guessing here), it’s more than a waste of time, it’s pernicious. Because those are insignificant next to the power of
the forcethe structural and economic issues the book is about. To say it’s counterproductive to pretend those things can save us is understatement of the week.
[re: “Dr. Maddow”]
Ummmm… not really. It’s unusual in the US to refer to people with Ph.Ds as “Dr.” There are a few who insist on it (e.g., Condoleezza Rice), and it’s usual to oblige them if they do, but they aren’t common.
Is Dr. Mrs. The Monarch a Ph.D or an MD?
Villago Delenda Est
I strongly recommend that you fuck off and die, asshole.
@Daaling: I am loving it that all the BJ FP’ers are messing with your mind. Not that you have much of one.
Rachael expects a purer form of government than I expect. I expect self serving power mad & greedy bastard types to run it. Who else goes for those kinds of jobs? Would I like her interpretation? Yes probably, but not everything. There’s a few topics my libertarianism kicks in & I don’t want anyone telling me what I can & can’t do.
I think the title is appropriate to introduce when it’s relevant in context. This isn’t Rachel Maddow, TV Host. It’s Dr. Maddow, PhD in Politics from Oxford. I think that adds relevance to whether the book is a serious review of he topic, or a Jonah Goldberg style wankoff. Out of context then yeah, drop the title. Granted, Maddows show is relevant in the same sphere, but if the reviews here do get picked up outside of this site, I think the honorific is appropriate.
For the Army yes, but that specific bit you quoted refers to National Guard units, and of course they will have large numbers of conscripts from the same congressional district in small states.
I agree completely with this, and may have to check out that book.
Used to be that we raised an army when we had to fight a war, demobilized it and sent it home at the end of the war, and in the meantime, maintained a professional standing army, but a small one that was basically an emergency response team.
But from 1947 onwards, we’ve had an army of the magnitude that used to be reserved for World War or Civil War type stuff, without any similar wars to fight. What’s our Big Permanent Standing Army done for our military power? Not a whole lot: we seem to have done less well at war since 1947 than before. What’s it cost us? A lot, in terms of the enormous and unchecked power it’s given to the executive branch and the “military-industrial complex.” And it’s not like they’re just emergency measures: Bush didn’t even bother to do the Palpatine “I will lay down my powers when this crisis has abated” bit of rhetoric.
The nation should’ve had a serious talk about this after Vietnam, or at the very latest after 1991. Unfortunately, the national security state really does seem like a permanent and irreversible feature these days.
@arguingwithsignposts: As are you. Now that we got that out of the way, your point is?
True. I mean, whoever hears of Mr. Martin Luther King referred to as “Dr.” or “Rev.?”
Not anymore. When I was in film school 20-cough years ago, the PhDs were already insisting on being called “Dr.” and it’s only grown since then.
I tend to agree with Miss Manners that only medical doctors and dentists should be called “Dr.” socially but the culture has moved on. What, you thought Dr. Laura was an MD? At least Dr. Phil has a PhD.
ETA: His PhD is in a relevant field, that is — psychology and not physiology.
As I noted, there are some well-known exceptions. But the vast majority of the approximately 1.75 million Ph.Ds in the US are not referred to as “Dr.”
The prophet Nostradumbass
Heh, I see that when a certain twit uses the “Reply” button, it exposes which web proxy he’s currently using to avoid the repeated ban hammer.
@The prophet Nostradumbass: Not much for taking a hint, that one.
Just bought it on Kindle, because I am a sheep.
Mike in NC
I found the unabridged audio book on CD at Amazon for $20 plus shipping.
@sneezy: not in my family. All doctorate’s are earned and ought to be acknowledged. Sincerely, Dr. Mighty Trowel (phd in archaeology)
She has fallen for a bunch of nonsense. Abrams had no chance to “win” the war because the troops were being pulled out from under his command faster than planned. Nixon and Kissinger accelerated the pullout so they would have leverage in the 1972 election, which was the chief concern of the Nixon Administration.
Abrams had, by 1972, turned the war completely around and had cleaned up Westmoreland’s mess. Americans have this view of Vietnam that is locked in place; but, the reality is, the Viet Cong were essentially destroyed by 1972 as an effective fighting force.
It’s too bad she didn’t confront this reality as a way of demonstrating that the conventional wisdom about the end of the Vietnam War has helped solidify the idea that the military can’t do anything right and that the politicians know best. Nixon and Kissinger owed their political survival to the fact that Abrams managed the war better than his predecessors.
Can you tell me if she covers the 1846 invasion of Mexico at all?
One of the most troubling facts about the modern Presidency’s ability to take the country to war without congressional approval is how totally not new it is: it’s just that Congress stopped fighting back like it used to.
I actually wrote several constitutional law papers about Presidential war-making ability and outlined a philosophy that seems pretty much in line with the descriptions of “Drift” that I’ve seen. I called it “war avoidance”: the notion that the proper constitutional balance of war powers places the ability to commence acts of war entirely within Congress’ ambit, and the President may only act with Congress’ permission or respond to external attacks on American lands (a requirement imposed on the President by the Guarantee Clause). I can’t wait to read Maddow’s book and see how her views stack up against mine.
Socially or in informally that’s true, but in a professional setting or a context where the degree is relevant I think you will hear “Dr.” being used quite freely. At least that’s my experience as the child of three and a half Ph.D.’s.
Ya know, that would be funny if it wasn’t such a bunch of shit. I was in my teens then and I remember a couple of the neighborhood guys coming home in pine boxes then. I’m not sure where you get your information but what I remember was the South Vietnamese government lost the support of their people in the 60’s & never got it back. Kinda like Afghanistan is now. It wouldn’t have mattered what we did, we couldn’t have held the country just through attrition. The Viet Cong’s strategy was better than ours. They won. Suggesting we could have won is pure lunacy.
@kindness: We did win; we destroyed the Viet Cong as an effective fighting force. The war was lost on the home front of America, but, militarily, it was not lost until we packed up and left. I’m sure that you remember when the B-52s hit North Vietnam, bringing them back to the peace talks. I’m sure that you remember the Easter offensive, which destroyed much of what was left of the Viet Cong, which never recovered after Tet in 1968.
South Vietnam was invaded by North Vietnam’s regular army after we lost, but they held out for nearly two years. The war was lost because the ARVN collapsed in 1975, not in 1973 or 1972. General Abrams had no illusions; he realized that when Nixon started pulling his troops out from under him faster than promised that he had to manage a withdrawal, and he did that.
What you got spoonfed in your teens is not reflected in the actual academic history of the Vietnam War. You’re on the side of conventional American wisdom, but the history says something else.
@WJS: I was relaying, perhaps clumsily, what she was relating about the way that Nixon and Kissinger referred to Abrams with the “he had his chance…”
That was Nixon’s commentary about Abrams, not anything Maddow said, except to quote Nixon.
@WJS: We didn’t win. We lost in Vietnam . The US perceived communism as a monolithic threat, exactly like the US currently percieves al islam. Vietnam became the communist republic of Vietnam.
And The middle east is going to become the loosely affiliated Islamic states of The Arabian peninsula.
It is not possible to change The religion of an indigenous population with force of arms.
@Soonergrunt: Good, because I want to like her book and I want her to go right back at the wingnut theories on war and the use of force. I want her to be completely on top of her game and have mastery of the arguments. I don’t expect her or anyone else to agree with me, but I want her book to be solid and definitive and blow them the fuck away with analysis, facts, and solid conclusions.
As soon as Republicans start talking about the military and the wars they’ve won, I want people to be able to throw it back in their faces that they wanted to sit out World War II, that they wanted to abandon Korea, that they did, in fact, abandon Vietnam and that they have consistently cut and run on the military for as long as anyone can remember. Democrats solve problems, end wars, and carry out the tough work on national security. Republicans bluster and run away from every single fight they can’t win with overwhelming force.
I do not think of it as unusual to refer to a Ph.D as Dr. To me it is the just recognition of the work and learning that they have put into the subject.
Of course, perhaps I have spent too much of my life in a educational/university environment.
well, here Reserve and Guard units are all local. So when a Guard unit gets called up, all the locals ship out as a unit. If you look at how the Brit army was organized after ’14, you see groups of boys from the same parrish, or factory, or club we cheered on to join up en masse- “Chums” was the name- The East Angleford Cricket League Chums”- would form up, and at places like the Somme, were made chum. In a single day- single hour- a tiny Brit town might loose 20 such chums,x a thousand.
Won what? We slaughtered a few million people in several countries, raining down all the hell from all fronts in war two on 3rd world peasants. Only by overwhelming industrial warfare could we compte in a contest we had zero business in. What right did any Viet peasant have that whatever quisling/thug we put on the throne in Saigon was bound to respect? Unrestricted aerial bombardment- the AF’s Strategic Bombing Survey is a good source- within the guidelines of “military targets”…..which I remember from coming across it in a Army dictionary in ’67: “Military target: any person, place, or thing which gives, or tends to give, aid or comfort to the enemy.”
Folks who fought the French to regain their independence taken at the mouth of cannon; fought the Japanese, then the French again, then us. And you want to play the “stabbed in the back” card? Get over it. Zero business being there. The fact the instigators & their profiteer supporters walked away counting the loot- no accountability for a lunatic crime, and blatant war profiteering…..and what do you know, here we are today.
This shit has been working SO well……
The reviewer actually needs to fact check-the US Marines are part of the US Navy-& McFarlane was a Marine for 20 years!
Marine Corps service
Following graduation from the Naval Academy in 1959, McFarlane was commissioned a second lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps where he served as a field artillery officer.
As a Marine Corps officer, McFarlane commanded platoons, a battery of field artillery howitzers, and was the Operations Officer for an artillery regiment. He taught Gunnery at the Army Advanced Artillery Course, and Executive Assistant to the Marine Corps’ Operations Deputy from 1968–1971; in that position he prepared the Deputy for meetings with the Joint Chiefs of Staff. During this assignment he was also the Action Officer in the Marine Corps Operations Division for Europe/NATO, the Middle East, and Latin America.
McFarlane served two combat tours in Vietnam. In March 1965, he commanded the artillery battery in the first landing of U.S. combat forces in Vietnam. While deployed during his first tour, McFarlane was selected for graduate studies as an Olmsted Scholar. McFarlane received a master’s degree (License) in strategic studies with highest honors from the Graduate Institute of International Studies (Institut de Hautes Etudes Internationales, HEI) in Geneva, Switzerland.
After attending the Graduate Institute of International Studies, McFarlane returned for a second tour in 1967–1968 as a Regimental Fire Support Coordinator for the 3rd Marine Division deployed along the Vietnamese Demilitarized Zone during the Tet Offensive. He organized all fire support (B-52s, naval gunfire from the USS New Jersey (BB-62), and artillery) for forces deployed at Con Thien, Cam Lo, Dong Ha, The Rockpile, Khe Sanh, and points between. McFarlane received a Bronze Star and a Navy Commendation Medal, both with Valor device.
Following his second tour in Vietnam and a tour at Headquarters Marine Corps, in 1971 he was named a White House Fellow. He was the first Marine Corps officer selected for the program.
McFarlane was assigned to the Office of Legislative Affairs at the White House, and at the conclusion of that assignment was selected as the Military Assistant to Henry Kissinger at the National Security Council. In this post, McFarlane dealt with intelligence exchanges with the People’s Republic of China from 1973 to 1976, giving detailed intelligence briefings to China at the time of the Sino-Soviet split. He also accompanied Kissinger on his visits to China. In addition, McFarlane dealt with other aspects of foreign policy, including the Middle East, relations with the Soviet Union, and arms control. McFarlane was appointed by President Gerald Ford as his Special Assistant for National Security Affairs while a Lieutenant Colonel and was the Distinguished Service Medal in 1976.
Upon leaving the White House, McFarlane was assigned to the National Defense University where he co-authored a book on crisis management while concurrently receiving a Diploma from the National War College.
He ended his Marine Corps career in Okinawa as Operations Officer for the 12th Marine Regiment. McFarlane retired in 1979 with the rank of lieutenant colonel.