NPR 4 THE DEF: We Hear It Even When You Can’t


For much of the past decade, journalist Rachel Maddow has hosted her own radio and TV shows. And for much of that time, the popular MSNBC host has been thinking about how the United States uses military force — and how it starts and end wars. Maddow’s new book Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power traces how U.S. national intelligence agencies have taken over duties that were once assigned to the military, and how this shift has increased the public disconnect from the consequences of war. “Politically, secrecy is a great excuse,” Maddow tells Fresh Air‘s Terry Gross. “If something is being done on a secret basis in national security, that’s a great reason for elected officials to not talk about it. And that’s a great way to shirk accountability for it with the public.” That lack of accountability, says Maddow, lets America’s national defense operate without public oversight or knowledge. “When things are done in secret in our name, we can be held accountable for them, even if we can’t hold accountable our government for directing it,” she says. “And that feels very un-American to me.” Using intelligence agencies and private contractors has also increasingly disconnected the American public from the consequences of war, says Maddow. “I don’t think anybody set out to make us so divorced from the wars that we wage,” she says. “But all of these little tweaks — all of these little changes that we made — had the effect of letting a president wage war without political restraint and letting us wage war in a way where we didn’t necessarily notice or know the names of all of those who were deployed in our name. Because a lot of them were working for companies that didn’t have any obligation to report to us when their people were killed. We ended up doing stuff in a way that insulated the American public from what our military was doing to the point where we don’t feel much friction when Americans go downrange.” Maddow says she grew up in a household where public service and military service were both respected. Her father served in Vietnam and left the service a year before she was born. “A lot of members of my family have served, a lot of people I grew up with served,” she says. “I think had it been legal for openly gay people to serve in the military in the time I might have been considering signing up. I think service is honorable, and that was always inculcated in me.” MORE

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