Just got done with reading Rachel Maddow’s book Drift where she describes how we have veered away from the original intent of the founders in what role the military and government played in deciding on wars. Starting from the times of Jeffersonian prudence of a limited military, to the post-World-Wars hand-wringing around Vietnam, she tracks how our policy evolved towards a larger armed forces and weaponization. Despite Madison and others attempting to empower the Legislature to keep a warmongering Executive in check, the book highlights how over the years we migrated towards a dangerously supra-legal executive authority. Despite the attempt by the Abrams doctrine to get the American people behind every war we wage by requiring the Guards and Reserves to participate, the Reagan years saw a complete dismantling of that framework and an explosion of the military budget as repeated attempts by the Legislature to question military engagements abroad were thwarted by names that are familiar to us thanks to the post-9/11 world we live in today.
She also gives a whirlwind summary of the increasing privatization of our armed forces through private contractors and corporations that are posted alongside the military and the socio-political implications of this dismemberment of what was a unified armed force that reported to the State. In a scary chapter on nuclear arsenal she talks about errors and near-disasters from the past and how much it costs to maintain an aging arsenal that could obliterate the world many times over. Her concerns for the veterans is clear – in how she portrays their loneliness as they return from extended deployments and search around for other veterans for support. The fact that in modern day warfare we are able to continue our lives unhindered for the most part but for the few that are asked to sacrifice their lives makes it easier to wage and prolong wars. All in all, a quick read that leaves you thinking about where we are headed as a country, especially in these few weeks leading up to another critical November where we decide as a country which path we shall choose among the two that we see ahead of us, which will lead us in different directions.