In her hard-hitting debut, popular MSNBC host Maddow examines how the country has lost control of its national-security policy.
The author holds Dick Cheney, to whom the book is dedicated (“Oh please let me interview you”), responsible for much that has gone wrong, associating the former vice president with the presidential prerogative of war-making powers. Cheney, writes Maddow, had been nursing these ideas since his days as chief of staff to President Gerald Ford, and he elaborated on them in his minority report on congressional investigation into the Iran-Contra affair. American forces are now accompanied by an equal or greater number of private contractors who perform functions that used to be reserved to the military, without either accountability or military control. The author shows how Bill Clinton used contractors extensively in Bosnia to avoid political fallout. These contractors, writes Maddow, typify the way in which the bonds that used to unite the military to the rest of society have been systematically severed, weakening political discussion and control. During the Vietnam War, Gen. Creighton Abrams and others reformed the structure of the military to make going to war without calling up the reserves and the National Guard—thereby guaranteeing national debate—very difficult, but these checks and balances have broken down. Maddow documents how the budgetary element has also gone out of control and raises important questions about the safety of the nuclear arsenal. She grounds her argument in the Founding Fathers’ debates about going to war and how difficult they intended to make the process—a state of affairs that is opposite to what is represented now.
With humor and verve, Maddow lays a solid basis for that hoped-for interview with Cheney (fingers crossed).