Catching Rachel Maddow's Drift
(Warisacrime.org) -- by davidswanson --
People who know better gave Rachel Maddow's new book unqualified praise in blurbs on the dust jacket. Maybe they see more good than bad in the book, which is called "Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power."...
Maddow's book picks out episodes, from the war on Vietnam to the present -- episodes in the expansion of the military industrial complex and in the aggrandizement of presidential war powers. Some of the episodes are extremely revealing and well told. Maddow's is perhaps the best collection I've seen of nuclear near-miss and screw-up stories. But much is missing from the book. And some of what is there is misleading.
Missing is the fact that U.S. wars kill people other than U.S. troops. The U.S. Civil War's battles, in Maddow's view "remain, to this day, America's most terrifying and costly battles." That depends what (or whom) you consider a cost. A listing of U.S. dead on the television show "Nightline," Maddow writes, "would be a televised memorial to those who had died in a year of war." Would it really? Everyone who had died? Victims of U.S. wars make an appearance in these pages as the sex slaves of U.S. mercenaries, but not as the victims of murder on a large scale. This absence is in contrast to a large focus on the damage done to U.S. troops, and a much larger focus on financial costs -- and not even on the tradeoffs, not even on the things that we could be spending money on, but rather on the "threat" of deficits and debt. Maddow notes the dramatic conversion from weapons factories to automobile, tractor, and refrigerator factories that followed World War II, but she does not propose such a conversion process now.
Missing is resistance and conscientious objection. "War will exist," wrote President John Kennedy, "until the distant day when the conscientious objector enjoys the same reputation and prestige as the warrior does today." That day grows more distant with books like Maddow's. In "Drift," everything warriors do is called "defense" (except with the Russians whose actions are called "strategic (aka offensive)"; when the troops do things they are "serving"; they are "patriotic"; and in times when the military becomes widely respected that is considered a positive development. Jim Webb is "an extraordinary soldier." Soldiers in Vietnam "served honorably," but sadly the military was "diminished" and the troops "demoralized." Or is it de-moral-ized? Maddow fills out her book with dramatic accounts of Navy SEALs trying to invade Grenada that appear to have been included purely for the adventure drama or the pro-troopiness -- although there's always some SNAFU in such stories as well.
War, in Maddow's world, is not in need of abolition so much as proper execution, which sometimes means more massive and less hesitant execution. LBJ "tried to fight a war on the cheap," Maddow quotes a member of Johnson's administration as recalling. On the other hand, when Colin Powell and Norman Schwarzkopf propose five or six aircraft carriers for the First War on Iraq, Maddow recounts that this "would leave naval power dangerously thin in the rest of the world." Dangerous for whom?...MORE...LINK
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