June 20, 2012
Rachel Maddow and conservatism, the new liberalism

Given the lamentable state of liberal affairs,Drift, a new book from MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, is refreshing. Most left-of-centre pundits long ago relegated the issue of killing poor foreigners in unjustifiable wars of aggression to the status of a niche concern, somewhere between Mitt Romney’s family dog and the search results for “Santorum” in terms of national importance. So in that sense, it’s nice to see a prominent progressive at least trying to grapple with the evils of militarism and rise of the US empire. It’s just a shame the book isn’t very good.

For one, Maddow, a self-described “national security liberal" who is "all about counterterrorism", writes more like a politician seeking to flatter her US audience than a teller of tough, uncomfortable truths. While at times briefly alluding to its war-filled past, Maddow repeatedly paints a picture of the US as, at heart, a peaceful nation, one with a government structured by its noble founding founders with a "deliberate peaceable bias". It is only recently, she maintains - post-World War II, but especially since Ronald Reagan - that war and a gargantuan military-industrial complex have been deemed "normal."

[…] In fact, Maddow’s book contributes to the very culture of militarism that makes war possible, elevating the soldier to the status of the Ideal Citizen, never mind their role in making unjust wars of aggression possible. Instead of tragic figures, members of the military are cast as heroic. “There are no Americans more impressive or more capable than the post-9/11 generation of Iraq and Afghanistan soldiers and veterans,” she writes. Indeed, “they are a huge part of why I’m bullish on America’s capacity to adapt, lead, and succeed in the the twenty-first century”.

Let’s hope no impressionable young people read that. They may be left with the idea that there’s something honourable in serving the US empire, that helping invade and occupy places such as Iraq and Afghanistan is something to be proud about, not something for which to seek forgiveness.