Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power by Rachel Maddow (signed by the author!) and I’m reading it with great interest, even though I’m totally swamped with other things. Damn you Rachel Maddow for writing such an engaging book!
I’m just starting it but wanted to share a couple of observations.
The nature of war in (well, ‘by’) America–and the nature of the military and government’s relationship to it–evolved over time from the days of the Founding Fathers to the end of the Viet Nam era, as described in Rachel Maddow’s new book, in very interesting ways. In particular, Maddow manages to parse the military and political events of the 1960s through the mid 1970s in a way that briefly and convincingly demonstrates that fundamental changes occurred at that time with major consequences. For instance, the role of the US Military Reserves and National Guard changed over this time. During Viet Nam, these two “Weekend Warrior” component’s of the military actually served as havens for privileged or otherwise lucky men (mostly) to avoid military service in or near combat in Southeast Asia. Remember the discussions a few years back about George Bush’s service, or lack there of, in the Texas Air National Guard? It suddenly occurred to me, reading Maddow’s book, that younger folk hearing about that would not have realized the significance of Bush’s Reservist status: Being in The Guard or The Reserves meant, in those days, being safe from combat, unlike more recent times, when the Guard and the Reserves have become so integrated into the US Military that it is essentially impossible for any reasonably sized military force to be launched from the US without Guard and Reserve involvement. Why is that? Maddow explains that in Chapter 1 of her book.
The other element of Viet Nam and post Viet Nam history that Maddow underscores is the War Powers Act. For some reason, I remember that fairly clearly from when it happened, but I think Maddow is correct to point out that at the time, other national events probably overshadowed it (Watergate, etc.). The fall of Saigon occurred at the time when the number of US “Troops” in that country was somewhere between zero and 300, depending on what you count as a “troop,” and the US Congress was rather tired, on both sides of the aisle, with Presidents more or less unilaterally doing stuff with our military that they happened to feel like doing. Maddow describes a remarkable and nearly unique event that occurred just at that time: A sort of Bi-Partisan march on the White House when the Senate Foreign Relations Committee actually visited President Ford and laid down the law, as it were, as to what they would accept in the way of expanded or renewed US involvement in Viet Nam as the North Vietnamese Army was stone-throwing distance from the soon to be former capital of South Viet Nam.
Needless to say, I am really enjoying this book.
By the way, Rachel sent me two copies of Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power, one for me to read and one to give away to some lucky reader of this blog. Not sure how I’m going to do that yet. I’ll keep you posted.
Meanwhile, here’s Rachel Maddow providing some context for Drift:
PS: The dedication, the little sentence you put at the front of the book, that Rachel penned is precious. It is reason alone for you to do whatever it takes, to do whatever I make you do, to jump through whatever hoop I design for you, to get a copy of this volume. Bwhahaha!