Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough


By Rachel Maddow

Narrated by Rachel Maddow 

As Brutus tells witnesses to Caesar’s bloody death, “I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.”  Ironically, Rachel Maddow, foments a similar feeling about the American military in her book, “Drift”.  She attacks executive branch’ usurpation of the Constitution’s separation-of-powers regarding declarations of war while burying the new American military that began changing after Vietnam.

Maddow is an intelligent liberal commentator for MSNBC.  This labeling seems necessary because, though in many respects her analyses of change in the military are spot-on, there is an innate intellectual, liberal bias in her argument.

Human beings are good and evil; not one or the other but both.  Humans also make mistakes; some from stupidity and others from ignorance.  Maddow is a rationalist that looks at the Constitution and uses a liberal’s ideals to bolster a belief that adherence to war-making clauses of the Constitution will somehow result in slower and more rational decisions because of extensive debate in Congress.  In the real world, there is only rationalization not rational decision making in going to war in advance of a decision to go to war.

War is only rational or correct in retrospect; never before declaration is made whether by strict constitutional or unconstitutional grounds.  It may be that Maddow is acknowledging the irrationality of war by pointing out that the Constitution slows the process of declaring war rather than suggesting it makes the decision more rational but it still begs the question of whether slowing the process makes any difference in a good or bad decision to go to war.

Maddow’s arguments about the decline of an American military backhandedly praises a war machine that is better tuned to the 21stcentury than any other military force in the world.  In spite of Maddow’s thrashing of the military’s inept management of its nuclear arsenal, she identifies human fallibility that must be managed better to avoid catastrophic mistakes.

The American military is no longer just a fighting force.  The exigencies of war require the military to be more than a killing machine. Though one can retrospectively see that invading Iraq the second time was a bad decision based on bad intelligence and human error, only history’s perspective makes that sight clear. Colin Powell said before the invasion, if you break it, you own it; well we broke it.


We broke it and the military was faced with being more than a killing machine.  The military, under Petraeus’ leadership, has evolved into a builder as well as destroyer of civilization.

Reality, of course, is not the same as this ideal.  We have not re-built what we have broken but that does not mean that Petraeus’ idea is incorrect.  Japan and Germany were rebuilt with the help of the American military after the end of WWII.  Iraq is at the end of a war but who can say they are not at the beginning of a new nation?


One cannot help but deplore the waste and corruption that exist in the military-industrial complex that has overtaken many traditional military roles of the American government but that is not an indictment of the military or the private sector.  Waste and corruption is as evident in the public sector as it is in the private sector.  The pursuit of money, power, and prestige are inherent in all human endeavors.  Humanity savors freedom and abhors tyranny but neither freedom nor tyranny changes human nature.

Maddow serves her country by attacking self-serving decisions made by people like  Dick Cheney that fed off privatizing military functions with companies like Halliburton (a part of KBR, Inc.) but Cheney undoubtedly felt he was being patriotic; maybe, his financial reward was a lucky coincidence, or not.  However, one can make a credible argument that many of Cheney’s privatization decisions made the American military better.


It is the government’s responsibility to regulate the private sector.  A part of that regulation is to provide equal opportunity to the many rather than to the few.  It does not mean greed disappears but opportunity for greed can be broadened with regulation.  Free is free and being human is being good and evil.

It is the obligation of the Maddows of the world to expose the reality of what is happening in America because she is free.  It is the obligation of those who are free to listen; to make their own decision about what they see, hear, experience, and do.

“Drift” is not an enjoyable listen but it opens one’s eyes to the change that has occurred in the American military.  In this reviewer’s mind, “Drift” praises the American military rather than buries it.

NOTE: Discussion about drones is a significant gap in this review and the consequence of their use remains an open question that is forthrightly raised in Maddow’s book.  Drones are the next step in remote war begun by Hitler with the V-2.  The consequence of technologically informed killing by drones does not change human nature.  Remote killing is an objectification of war that savages morality and anesthetizes personal responsibility.   [contact-form-7 id=”4427″ title=”What did you think about the review?”]

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7 thoughts on “TO BURY OR TO PRAISE”

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