Drift -- The Unmooring of American Military Power by Rachel Maddow, Crown '12, $25, 275 pages, ASIN #0307460983. Index, notes on sources, no bibliography or illustrations.
In 1792, writes author Rachel Maddow, Founding Father Thomas Jefferson -- who had helped fight a war to create an independent republic -- said "One of my favorite ideas is, never to keep an unnecessary soldier." But somewhere, a century or two later, the train left the tracks. How it did so, the implications thereof, and how to get the train back on the track is the theme of the MSNBC host's first book.
Rhodes Scholars, it is to be assumed, don't learn words like "chickenshittery" at Oxford, but Rachel Maddow isn't any ordinary Rhodes Scholar, and the word she coins here is deadly serious and refers to the usurping of Congressional warmaking powers by the Executive Branch and its designated "privateers."
Maddow traces the history of a republic founded as a peaceful nation but which now is perpetually at war -- even, amazingly, wars its citizenry aren't aware of. In short, we're "a nation weirdly at peace with perpetual war, with all the financial and human costs that entails." She quotes Abraham Lincoln to get to the heart of things:
"The provision of the Constitution giving the war-making power to Congress was dictated, as I understand it, by the following reasons: kings had always been involving and impoverishing their people in wars....This our convention understood to be the most oppressive of all kingly oppressions, and they resolved to so frame the Constitution that no one man should hold the power of bringing this oppression upon us."
Citing one of eight to-do's she proposes to restore sanity to the system, Maddow argues, is this: "Going to war, being at war, should be painful for the entire country, from the start. Henceforth, when we ship the troops off to battle, let's pay for it. War costs money. Lots and lots of money. Whenever we start a new one, we should raise the money to pay for it, contemporaneously. Taxes, war bonds, what-have-you. 'Freedom isn't free' shouldn't be a bumper sticker -- it should be policy.....
"We don't need a radical new vision of post-Cold War American power to put us back on course; we just need to revive that old idea of America as a deliberately peaceable nation. That's not simply our inheritance. It's our responsibility."
Rachel Maddow has hosted the Rachel Maddow Show on MSNBC since 2008. She has a doctorate in politics from Oxford and a bachelor's degree in public policy from Stanford. She lives in rural western Massachusetts and New York City.
The Absolutist -- A Novel by John Boyne, Other '12 paperback. $16.95, 309 pages, ASIN #1590515528.
From the inside cover:
"It is September 1919: twenty-one-year-old Tristan Sadler takes a train from London to Norwich to deliver a package of letters to the sister of Will Bancroft, the man he fought alongside during the Great War.
"But the letters are not the real reason for Tristan's visit. He can no longer keep a secret and has finally found the courage to unburden himself of it. As Tristan recounts the horrific details of what to him became a senseless war, he also speaks of his friendship with Will -- from their first meeting on the training grounds at Aldershot to their farewell in the trenches of northern France. The intensity of their bond brought Tristan happiness and self-discovery but also confusion and unbearable pain."
Ireland-born author John Boyne has written nine novels, including The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, which was made into an award-winning film in 2008. The book, which won numerous book awards, has sold more than five million copies and has been published in forty-five languages.