From last week's New York Times obituary of Robert McNamara:
Robert S. McNamara, the forceful and cerebral defense secretary who helped lead the nation into the maelstrom of Vietnam and spent the rest of his life wrestling with the war’s moral consequences, died Monday at his home in Washington. He was 93.
A maelstrom, according to the American Heritage Dictionary, is:
- 1. A violent or turbulent situation: caught in the maelstrom of war.
- 2. A whirlpool of extraordinary size or violence.
The second definition is the word's original meaning. The OED etymology: "From the obsolete early modern Dutch maelstrom (now maalstroom), meaning whirlpool, which derives from malen (to grind, to whirl round) + stroom (stream)."
Garner's Modern American Usage notes: "Originally a Dutch word referring to a grinding or turning stream, (maelstrom) is frequently misspelled 'maelstorm' "
You can see how that misspelling almost seems right, since "storm" sounds like it fits the definition of violence and tubulence.