Review: Drift by Rachel Maddow
I grew up on stories of wars. My grandfather would have talked about the First, and how he was too old, really, in the Second World War. Being Canadian, I heard a lot about Vietnam too, as so many people fled to my country to escape the draft.
And then when I was 14, I got really sick and I missed a lot of school. That roughly coincided with the beginning of Operation Desert Storm. I remember lying confused on the sofa, wondering why this war (I was watching it on CNN) didn’t look like the wars we’d talk about every year on Remembrance Day. There were no rations for us. No private enterprises desperately seeking to replace workers who had gone overseas to fight. No war-bonds or tax increases to pay for this. How many wars have we experienced primarily through news broadcasts?
It was strange, and it didn’t feel like I thought war would.
Of course, Desert Storm was war. Lots of people died. There was a victory of sorts. But war had changed, and it didn’t change suddenly, as you’ll learn when you read Rachel Maddow’s step-by-step on how war became something detached from American public life, and why that’s made it palatable (but financially draining and certainly questionable) to be in a perpetual state of war.
Drift may attack a complicated political problem, but Maddow’s uncomplicated writing makes it feel within reach of an average reader.
What may begin as a curiosity read for people who are fans of Rachel Maddow, will end in a concrete realisation that we need to be more engaged in how our countries and our world goes to war. While this book is definitely focused on an American problem, it’s easy to see the same pattern emerging elsewhere. For me, this book clarified an uneasiness I have felt since those Desert Storm/CNN days.
Maddow doesn’t simply point out the problem; she does take a stab at a solution. She wants America to wean itself off off its military might, saying that going to war “should be painful for the entire country”. Her mission appears to be awareness and convincing her readers that the problem, although large, is within the American electorate’s power to change.
All in, the book is a compelling read whether or not the politics of war is your thing. And if you think the politics of war may be more interesting whispered in your ear by Rachel Maddow, an audiobook is available too.