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The Shield of Achilles: War, Peace, and the Course of History

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For five centuries, the State has evolved according to epoch-making cycles of war and peace. But now our world has changed irrevocably. What faces us in this era of fear and uncertainty? How do we protect ourselves against war machines that can penetrate the defenses of any state? Visionary and prophetic, The Shield of Achilles looks back at history, at the “Long War” of 1 For five centuries, the State has evolved according to epoch-making cycles of war and peace. But now our world has changed irrevocably. What faces us in this era of fear and uncertainty? How do we protect ourselves against war machines that can penetrate the defenses of any state? Visionary and prophetic, The Shield of Achilles looks back at history, at the “Long War” of 1914-1990, and at the future: the death of the nation-state and the birth of a new kind of conflict without precedent.


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For five centuries, the State has evolved according to epoch-making cycles of war and peace. But now our world has changed irrevocably. What faces us in this era of fear and uncertainty? How do we protect ourselves against war machines that can penetrate the defenses of any state? Visionary and prophetic, The Shield of Achilles looks back at history, at the “Long War” of 1 For five centuries, the State has evolved according to epoch-making cycles of war and peace. But now our world has changed irrevocably. What faces us in this era of fear and uncertainty? How do we protect ourselves against war machines that can penetrate the defenses of any state? Visionary and prophetic, The Shield of Achilles looks back at history, at the “Long War” of 1914-1990, and at the future: the death of the nation-state and the birth of a new kind of conflict without precedent.

30 review for The Shield of Achilles: War, Peace, and the Course of History

  1. 4 out of 5

    Sherwood Smith

    The perfect book to take on a long train ride. Bobbitt's strength is in his ability to paint the Big Picture, specifically the evolution of the state, and how we're now passing into the era of the market state. He supports his thesis with a staggering mass of detail which I found somewhat problematical the farther back he went (Castlereagh the great visionary? Really? What about Kosciusko? Or for that matter, Talleyrand and Metternich, and how a great deal of the face of modern Europe was envisi The perfect book to take on a long train ride. Bobbitt's strength is in his ability to paint the Big Picture, specifically the evolution of the state, and how we're now passing into the era of the market state. He supports his thesis with a staggering mass of detail which I found somewhat problematical the farther back he went (Castlereagh the great visionary? Really? What about Kosciusko? Or for that matter, Talleyrand and Metternich, and how a great deal of the face of modern Europe was envisioned by the first before Napoleon crowned himself Emperor, and the latter ten years later at Vienna?) The problem with Big Picture thinking is that the conclusions can seem too neat, and history has a way of demonstrating how very messy it is. Given that, the last half of the book is terrific, as he examines the alteration of paradigm over the twentieth century conflicts--the first half of which he calls the Long War. It ends with a coda supplied after the events of 9/11, striking a warning note.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Steve

    Pulled out 'The Shield' recently and re-read some sections - Bobbitt is an interesting character, a constitutional lawyer and historian. I heard him speak at the Stanford Law and Ethics Forum a few weeks ago on 'Terror and Consent' which is also the title of his new book. The 'Shield' is of door-stop dimensions, but it had (for me) great value. He traces the dynamic, evolutionary relationship between the internal, constitutional order of states and the external challenges of strategy and war, be Pulled out 'The Shield' recently and re-read some sections - Bobbitt is an interesting character, a constitutional lawyer and historian. I heard him speak at the Stanford Law and Ethics Forum a few weeks ago on 'Terror and Consent' which is also the title of his new book. The 'Shield' is of door-stop dimensions, but it had (for me) great value. He traces the dynamic, evolutionary relationship between the internal, constitutional order of states and the external challenges of strategy and war, beginning in the 15th century He argues that the effectiveness of internal mechanisms of order is proven (or not) in the Darwinian arena of foreign affairs. For example the so called 'long war'- all the conflicts between 1914 and the Peace of Paris in 1990 were (in his terms) an epochal war between the constitutional orders of fascism,communism and democracy. We are now, according to Bobbitt, in the beginning phases of a new epochal war, the war on terror, the first in which it will not require a state to destroy a state and which will force constitutional changes to survive the challenge. Gotta love a big picture guy. But he could use a brevity focused editor. Recommended- but be prepared to skim!

  3. 5 out of 5

    Valentin Chirosca

    Bobbitt the historian tells us the story of the modern state, while Bobbitt the expert in strategic planning links this story to changes in military technology which in turn were bound to change military strategy. So we learn how military requirements produced new kinds of state: the “princely state” (1494 – 1648), the “kingly state” that merged into the “territorial state” (1648 – 1776), the “state-nation” (1776 – 1914), and the “nation-state” in what Bobbitt calls the “Long War” (1914 – 1990). Bobbitt the historian tells us the story of the modern state, while Bobbitt the expert in strategic planning links this story to changes in military technology which in turn were bound to change military strategy. So we learn how military requirements produced new kinds of state: the “princely state” (1494 – 1648), the “kingly state” that merged into the “territorial state” (1648 – 1776), the “state-nation” (1776 – 1914), and the “nation-state” in what Bobbitt calls the “Long War” (1914 – 1990). How far this analysis is valid and persuasive is a matter for historians to debate. What is interesting in the present context is Bobbitt’s conclusion: just as the state-nation had to be replaced by the nation-state, so the nation-state, in the 21st century, will be superseded by what Bobbitt calls the “market-state”. It does not matter whether Bobbitt likes or recommends this market-state (he does). Whether we like it or not, this new type of state is what history will bring about. If you want a really fast introduction to the book’s entire argument, ponder those plates for five minutes, then leap to Bobbitt’s summary of three scenarios on pp. 721-2, and then vault to the climax of the argument on pp. 773-5. xxi Opening lines: “We are at a moment in world affairs when the essential ideas that govern statecraft must change . . . owing to advances in international telecommunications, rapid computation, and weapons of mass destruction.” This book “is principally concerned with the relationship between strategy and legal order.” xxvi “A great epochal war has just ended. The various competing systems of the contemporary nation-state (fascism, communism, parliamentarianism) that fought that war all took their legitimacy from the promise to better the material welfare of their citizens. The market-state offers a different covenant: It will maximize the opportunity of its people.”

  4. 5 out of 5

    Adam

    {Not a Review} ======++++++====== Seen in Paul Monk's review of Hugh White's https://www.theaustralian.com.au/arts... How To Defend Australia https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/4... Paul Monk was the head of the 'China desk' at the Defence Intelligence Organisation (DIO). So he probably knows what he's talking about and think's Hugh White is full of it (which we knew anyway and I agree). Seems the DIO has churned out some half-decent analysts afterall ;-p {Not a Review} ======++++++====== Seen in Paul Monk's review of Hugh White's https://www.theaustralian.com.au/arts... How To Defend Australia https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/4... Paul Monk was the head of the 'China desk' at the Defence Intelligence Organisation (DIO). So he probably knows what he's talking about and think's Hugh White is full of it (which we knew anyway and I agree). Seems the DIO has churned out some half-decent analysts afterall ;-p

  5. 4 out of 5

    Timothy

    This is a remarkable work -- if only for its sheer ambition and the grace with which it is pursued. Setting into meaningful dialogue military/strategic history and political/constitutional history, Bobbitt traces the changing dominant forms of the "state" from its Renaissance founding (princely states) through to what he argues is the recent (or perhaps still occurring) demise of the 20th-century manifestation (nation states). So the historical narrative is not intended only to enrich our unders This is a remarkable work -- if only for its sheer ambition and the grace with which it is pursued. Setting into meaningful dialogue military/strategic history and political/constitutional history, Bobbitt traces the changing dominant forms of the "state" from its Renaissance founding (princely states) through to what he argues is the recent (or perhaps still occurring) demise of the 20th-century manifestation (nation states). So the historical narrative is not intended only to enrich our understanding of the past and to provide much-needed perspective for today's challenges, both of which it does in spades. It also sets up his more provocative and unabashedly speculative proposal: that we are living not just in the waning of the nation state but in the early formative stages of its successor, what he calls the "market state." One is tempted to review this book on the plausibility of this proposal regarding the market state, and this in turn tempts one to judge such ideas according to what one believes (desires, wishes, hopes...) the state to be or to become. But this is not the real value of the book, in my opinion. Whether Bobbitt "gets it right" or not is somewhat besides the point, for he has done an enormous service by setting the most trenchant and bewildering challenges of 21st century sociopolitical life in the midst of an integrated historical narrative that leaves this reader, at least, feeling better equipped to THINK further and more responsibly about our present and our possible futures. And specific political debates take on a new salience in this context, even as they show themselves to be ever less reducible to simple solutions (especially ones rooted in old ideologies, left or right or other). I look forward to reading his sequel, Terror and Consent: The Wars of the 21st Century, which promises to address the speculative futures of the market state in more detail (yet I will also be eager to ask how the economic events from 2008 onward may affect his work, Terror and Consent being published in 2008). In the end, it is a book to read carefully, to ponder broadly, and then to set aside in order to participate more intelligently and fully in the political work of life together. That Bobbitt writes elegantly and synthesizes everything from poetry to policy to warfare to theory so beautifully makes the experience all the more rewarding and compelling.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Matt Stearns

    The Shield of Achilles is a tome. In that sense it reflects the source for it's title, Homer's elaborate and lengthy description of Achilles' shield in the Iliad. I read this book as part of my research on a paper in which I argued that transnational legal orders are facilitating a reorientation of individual identities and therefore political change. Because of this, I was reading for very specific information and my opinion may be skewed for that reason. Philip Bobbitt's analysis is incredible The Shield of Achilles is a tome. In that sense it reflects the source for it's title, Homer's elaborate and lengthy description of Achilles' shield in the Iliad. I read this book as part of my research on a paper in which I argued that transnational legal orders are facilitating a reorientation of individual identities and therefore political change. Because of this, I was reading for very specific information and my opinion may be skewed for that reason. Philip Bobbitt's analysis is incredible. He argues persuasively the relationship between war and changes in the orientation of the state (re: government or its corollary) and citizens. Bobbitt utilizes a cross-disciplinary approach, engaging history, law, politics, economics, and psychology, to explain humanity in a way that each discipline has attempted and fallen short. Not since Toynbee's A Study of History have I been so impressed with a comprehensive approach to explaining us. While the book is phenomenal, Bobbitt's conclusions are not necessarily good. His argues that we are transition from the "nation-state" orientation to the "market-state". A market-state is concerned chiefly with protecting wealth and open markets. It is engaged in what I would describe as a perversion of capitalism ala Disaster Capitalism. Given the record wealth inequality around the world and the financial, political, and environmental devastation wrought by regulatory capture there is a lot of recent events that lends credence to his conclusion. As I said, I read this book for a specific purpose. However, I found it so good that I plan to reread the hulking 800 page text to approach it without predispositions or agendas. A willingness to reread is truthfully the highest recommendation that one can give for any book.

  7. 5 out of 5

    David

    Well, I've finally finished this tome. I read this on the Amazon Kindle 3 (iPad and Touch as well) and this thing has 23,074 locations (get used to the new system it's the future...probably...because it is more accurate). Achilles was a good book but not a great book. Problems for me were that it was over written, fractious, largely speculative, and somewhat dated (having mostly been written before 9/11). Essentially it is two books rolled into one. Another of its problems. The first book is con Well, I've finally finished this tome. I read this on the Amazon Kindle 3 (iPad and Touch as well) and this thing has 23,074 locations (get used to the new system it's the future...probably...because it is more accurate). Achilles was a good book but not a great book. Problems for me were that it was over written, fractious, largely speculative, and somewhat dated (having mostly been written before 9/11). Essentially it is two books rolled into one. Another of its problems. The first book is concerned with the history of the Long or Epochal War...transformative wars which change the nature of states as they are fought. 1914-90 is a good example of this. The second book is about the evolution of the state and the argument that a new type of state is emerging. Presently we are living at the fag end of the Nation State (which offers its people a better life) and are growing into the Market State (which attempts to offer its people better opportunities). These two books are inadequately merged into a central thesis so the reader is left with a jarring experience. In parts the book is brilliant and at other parts cliche...this unevenness was another issue for me...but the brilliant parts managed to give this book three stars instead of two. In truth I wished to give it two but it deserves the three. Is it worth read? Tough question. I believe the book on the Epochal War is very worthwhile but the book on the evolution of the State less so. Am glad to be free of this book...but it was worth the time...though, ultimately, unconvincing.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Mike

    Sweeping . . . that's the best one-word review I can offer . . . just sweeping, as Dr. Bobbitt traces the basic history of the whole concept of the nation-state from inception to circa 2001. And he does so in prose that is as compelling as a novel in places, believe it or not. I started reading this book in 2004 in the midst of a horrible Floridian hurricane and found myself not wanting to put it down or leave my apartment. The chapter on Colonel House and his legacy in statecraft is worth the p Sweeping . . . that's the best one-word review I can offer . . . just sweeping, as Dr. Bobbitt traces the basic history of the whole concept of the nation-state from inception to circa 2001. And he does so in prose that is as compelling as a novel in places, believe it or not. I started reading this book in 2004 in the midst of a horrible Floridian hurricane and found myself not wanting to put it down or leave my apartment. The chapter on Colonel House and his legacy in statecraft is worth the price of the book alone, to say nothing of the rest of it. If you want a great introduction to modern statecraft and how contemporary Western nations think and work, this is the best place I can think of in one book to start out on that education. It's long and dense, but again, the author is a very skilled writer and keeps your interest all the way through.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Colin

    The breadth and depth of this book is astonishing. Bobbitt explains why the 20th Century was one "Long War" fought between Fascism, Communism and Parliamentarism. The latter won. But the more important point is the void created by the lack of the cold war, and how that confuses countries in terms of how to react to new problems of terror, dictators, food crises or even climate change. Offers views on NATO, UN, EU etc. Tough read with enormous detail in history from 1400's to now. The breadth and depth of this book is astonishing. Bobbitt explains why the 20th Century was one "Long War" fought between Fascism, Communism and Parliamentarism. The latter won. But the more important point is the void created by the lack of the cold war, and how that confuses countries in terms of how to react to new problems of terror, dictators, food crises or even climate change. Offers views on NATO, UN, EU etc. Tough read with enormous detail in history from 1400's to now.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jack Schweitzer

    It has the potential to open and change your persepective if you can handle the scope and the depth of the work. One of the best books Ive ever picked up. If your interested in war and history give this book a try

  11. 4 out of 5

    Baden

    Cool book. I'm currently reading about how the great treaties of the world have contributed our current international state: Augsburg, Westfallia, Peace of Paris, etc. Cool book. I'm currently reading about how the great treaties of the world have contributed our current international state: Augsburg, Westfallia, Peace of Paris, etc.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Perry Whitford

    Certain world leaders over the last dozen years have been in thrall to the theories and arguments that historian and political adviser Phillip Bobbitt formed in this mammoth book, published in 2002. Why? There is only one way to find out - to read the thing, which is quite a challenge as, not only could you find an alternative use for it as a prop for the shortened leg on a large-sized table, you could actually use it for a small-sized table on its own. In the Introduction, Bobbitt establishes his Certain world leaders over the last dozen years have been in thrall to the theories and arguments that historian and political adviser Phillip Bobbitt formed in this mammoth book, published in 2002. Why? There is only one way to find out - to read the thing, which is quite a challenge as, not only could you find an alternative use for it as a prop for the shortened leg on a large-sized table, you could actually use it for a small-sized table on its own. In the Introduction, Bobbitt establishes his aims clearly to identify the emergence of the the 'market-state' as the newest form of state, superseding the nation-state of the 20th century, much as that form had superseded the imperial-state of the 19th, and so on through six epochs all the way back to the very emergence of the very idea of State in 15th century. He asserts that Law, Strategy and History are interconnected prerequisites for the constitutional legitimacy needed for a State, a vague but obvious fact on the face of it. But Bobbitt has what he considers to be a new thesis to argue, so of course he has to make this claim as though he is the first person to think this, chiding other thinkers with the usual academic childishness such writers can't resist. In Book 1, 'States of War', he presents a plausible explanation of how an epoch of war (termed the Long War) that started in 1914 only actually ended in 1990 with the Paris Treaty, for only then did the battle for constitutional legitimacy between communism, fascism and parliamentarianism conclude with the end of the Soviet state. Military histories are provided for the previous five epochs he recognizes, all of which will be familiar to anyone who has studied history - almost specifically european history that is - at any depth. Then he moves onto his definition of the current epoch and its 'market-states', which have come into being as a direct result of 3 causes: globalization, mass computation and WMDs. At its simplest, his market-state definition is this: 'The State will maximize the opportunity of its citizens'. The belief is that the state will achieve this by doing less, relying more increasingly on corporations and NGOS (Non-governmental organisations| to get the job done for us (you know, such as banks, because they can be trusted to provide opportunity for the citizenry at large, right?) He sees three such types of state: mercantile (national, interventionist), managerial (less centralized, partly interventionist) and entrepreneurial (internationalist, rarely interventionist). I think you can guess which of these he favors. He ends his book on war by stating that the US approach to war is outdated, that 'our current strategy owes more to General Ulysses Grant than to General Colin Powell'. A new epoch calls for a new strategy. Terrorism is now the enemy, and the proliferation of WMDs to 'rogue' states must be stopped, something the UN will not do but NATO may, or similar, ad-hoc coalitions (such as the soon to be Coalition of the Witless Willing). Book 2 addresses the international law of the society of states that has changed across the six epochs as a result of the peace conferences that has set the agenda after crucial conflicts have ended. (e.g. Westphalia established the Kingly State, Vienna the State-nation etc) As with the historical sections of Book 1, he could have done without this clutter, though it does flesh out his thesis. This includes a lengthy history of the evolution of the proceeding form of government that he feels the market-state has replaced, the nation-state. Also included is focus afforded to non-elected political adviser to Woodrow Wilson, Edward M. House; an analogy between the famous 'Kitty Genovese' incident familiar to all student psychologists; and the wars in the former Yugoslavian countries. I know that jurisprudence and international law are subjects difficult to make engaging, but he could have made a better stab at it. This is the biggest problem with the bulk of the book and the inclusion of so much background - he simply doesn't write interestingly enough to keep you reading (which is why I read the first 350 pages in Oct 2012, then left it for two years until Oct 2014 to read the rest). His take of Gorbachev's policies and intentions that proved the catalyst for the collapse of the USSR are somewhat dubious, suggesting that he had no real desire to move towards the eventual outcomes but rather blundered into them. I still say that he and the USSR could have resorted to arms at any stage of the fragmentation of its state, but decided not to. That fact is more important than the negative effects of some misguided short-term economic reforms. However, he is excellent on the subject of nuclear proliferation, making a clear and compelling case for the obligations that continue to define US policy, explaining why constitutionally unstable states or states with openly aggressive geopolitical aims should not be permitted to have them, and the benefits of ensuring that Germany and Japan continue to resist the need to develop their own nuclear programs instead of relying on American deterrence. By far the most interesting part is the end, where he moves substantially onto the present and to scenarios from 'Possible Worlds', dependent on the choice of market-states chosen. His extrapolations have already been proved largely incorrect in the years since publication, but they are all still highly possible, while he is very even-handed in the good and bad that could result from either of the three market-state models. That is to say, the future under either of the three models looks like a hideous shit-storm whichever way. At one stage he insists that leading politicians need to talk plainly about their strategy, discarding 'emotive' and essentially meaningless rhetoric, which we can all agree with. Yet at another stage he merely shrugs his shoulders at the examples of hypocrisy in states, as though its their right to talk and behave in ways that pour scorn on their own constitutions (i.e. Guantanamo, American assistance for a military coup in Egypt?). I know that this is the reality, but Bobbitt is doing more here than just pointing out the facts, he is offering an argument for how the state should act. So if double-standards are fine, why should politicians be other than the glib Public Relations advisers they have become? I would argue that it is the very nature of the market-state itself that has made them that way. If those politicians want a state where the market actually controls everything, how can they possibly be anything but emasculated frontmen for the market? A final word on war leaves the reader in no doubt that it is here to stay: 'We must choose which sort of war we will fight, regardless of what are its causes, to set the terms of the peace we want.' The market-states he obviously favors, those of the US and the UK, have already chosen that war - the erroneously retaliatory and unlawful one in Irag, which Bobbitt supported. We can already see the knock-on effect this has had in the middle-east, where several states have seen themselves come under attack from within. Tellingly, the rebels are not fighting to establish market-states on the models of the US or the UK. Far from it. In conclusion then, as is frequent with such theory based political works, Bobbitt's thesis could actually have been written on the back of a stamp, but it pays to pad it out to the point of obesity with potted histories of various peace treaties and biographies of political advisors and theorists on international law - where a plodding style encumbers him - as it does to crown it with a grand classical allusion, regardless of how appropriate. All in all though, it still reads like an all-purpose apology for America to act how it wants in the world, regardless of the supposed advice being offered to a society of states in general. Though the history is largely euro-centric, he does confirm that the US will be substantially used as a model for the market-state, appropriately enough I suppose. But he also aims to give an 'objective' account of the countries history and influence, only to continually confuse just who he is referring to when he says "our", or "we", from the Introduction onwards. If his intention is to persuade other market-states to follow the American lead into the new epoch, then, rather like the foreign policies of George W. Bush, he doesn't do a very good job. If instead, as I see it, his intention is to say "It's my way or the highway", he makes a compelling case.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Michael Graves

    I actually read this book about 15 years ago I mention it because it was my first time to learn how important the contributions make by President Bush (41) and his secretary of state, Jim Baker. This has all come to light with the funeral services and clebrations of the life if htis presiedent. The book gives an interesting perspective on history. For example he regards WI, WWII, Korea, Viet Nam to not be separate wars. Rather they constitute the "long war" which started in 1914 in Sarajevo, and I actually read this book about 15 years ago I mention it because it was my first time to learn how important the contributions make by President Bush (41) and his secretary of state, Jim Baker. This has all come to light with the funeral services and clebrations of the life if htis presiedent. The book gives an interesting perspective on history. For example he regards WI, WWII, Korea, Viet Nam to not be separate wars. Rather they constitute the "long war" which started in 1914 in Sarajevo, and ended with the fall of Soviet Russia's empire in 1992. I am reminded of a joke. A knight mounts his horse and bids farewell to his wife saying "Good bye, I'm off to fight in the seven years war". She replies "at least it's not the hundred years war!. Of course, no one knew the length and starting and ending dates for these wars until they were seen with the perspective of history. All said, this is a well written and interesting book for people interested in history.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Tom Emm

    Can’t rate this highly enough. A fine historical interpretation of why power structures have changed over time, leading to the rise of the Nation State; how they might evolve in the future and what might be the catalyst.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Mani

    Traces the evolution of states, beginning from princely through kingly, nation and then market states. Though a dense, difficult read, the premise is so intriguing that I found myself engrossed. Also, got a nice primer and review of early European history in the process.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Mike Darnell

    Vast in scope and prophetic with the insight it offers, this treatise ties between how we fight and what we believe. Not for the faint hearted - This book pulls the veneer away from civilization to show the power play beneath. It's a fascinating, but wordy piece of work. Vast in scope and prophetic with the insight it offers, this treatise ties between how we fight and what we believe. Not for the faint hearted - This book pulls the veneer away from civilization to show the power play beneath. It's a fascinating, but wordy piece of work.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Sean

    I thought that this book might be my white whale, but I finally caught up to it. Purchased, 2002. Began reading, 2002, 2005, and 2012. Finished, 2012. Phew. A dense examination of the interplay between law, war, and the constitutional ordering of the state. The first book focuses on the history of the modern state, and the periods of war and peace that led to paradigm shifts in way states were conceived of and behaved. Much attention is given to the Long War, Bobbit's name for the 75ish years of I thought that this book might be my white whale, but I finally caught up to it. Purchased, 2002. Began reading, 2002, 2005, and 2012. Finished, 2012. Phew. A dense examination of the interplay between law, war, and the constitutional ordering of the state. The first book focuses on the history of the modern state, and the periods of war and peace that led to paradigm shifts in way states were conceived of and behaved. Much attention is given to the Long War, Bobbit's name for the 75ish years of struggle that lasted from 1914 to 1990. The second book turns to the international society of states, and to the epoch-making peaces that periodically mark the end of one constitutional form and the advent of another. Bobbit contends that the nation-state, born of the late 19th century and maturing in the conflicts of the 20th -- which saw parlimentarianism triumph over fascism and communism -- is withering away, unable to face the various technological challenges of the 21st century. In its place, a market-state will arise, and is already arising. What shape it will take is still in play, and depends on the choices we make today. I found much, and perhaps most, of Bobbit's argument persuasive, and think that the book aged well. Indeed, I imagine that I got more out of the segment on possible futures in 2012 than I might have in 2002. Highly recommended for those with an interest in military matters, the law, or geopolitics. It's not an easy read, but I think it's a worthwhile investment of your time.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Patrick McCoy

    The Shield of Achilles by Philip Bobbit was an interesting look at the history and culture of war in western society. I basically focused on Book I: State of War. I didn’t have time to finish it since I was in SE Asia, and I haven’t decided whether or not to tackle Book II: States of Peace. Bobbit has an impressive knowledge of military innovation through strategy and technology. He is equally knowledgeable about constitutional law and its history. He presents an interesting analysis of what he The Shield of Achilles by Philip Bobbit was an interesting look at the history and culture of war in western society. I basically focused on Book I: State of War. I didn’t have time to finish it since I was in SE Asia, and I haven’t decided whether or not to tackle Book II: States of Peace. Bobbit has an impressive knowledge of military innovation through strategy and technology. He is equally knowledgeable about constitutional law and its history. He presents an interesting analysis of what he calls “the long war” (1919-1990). I particularly found Part III The Historic Consequences of the Long War interesting for his analysis of The Strategic Choices (of the Market State). He comes across as hawkish and it wouldn’t surprise me if he was a supporter of the Bush administration’s foreign policy with his attitudes toward war and foreign policy.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Alan

    A bit of a slog, but worth it. An eye-opener for me. It's distressing to read so persuasive a prediction of nuclear weapons proliferation and that states are evolving away from their objective of improving citizens' welfare. On the other hand, do-good initiatives informed by his analysis will be more likely to actually do good. Right after finishing this, I read about Kroll Inc., a very profitable international fraud busting company that seems the kind of organization necessary for Bobbitt's mor A bit of a slog, but worth it. An eye-opener for me. It's distressing to read so persuasive a prediction of nuclear weapons proliferation and that states are evolving away from their objective of improving citizens' welfare. On the other hand, do-good initiatives informed by his analysis will be more likely to actually do good. Right after finishing this, I read about Kroll Inc., a very profitable international fraud busting company that seems the kind of organization necessary for Bobbitt's more rosy scenarios. Mr. Kroll says that corruption, while pervasive enough for him to make lots of money, is declining.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    This is an excellent book. The author's thesis is that there is a dynamic relationship between strategic and legal development, such that changes in the strategic environment drive constitutional changes in states and the evolution of state's constitutions change the strategic environment. As a consequence history has moved through various stages which correspond to the development of modern states, with each stage centered on an "epochal war" (often a series of conflicts) which separates the su This is an excellent book. The author's thesis is that there is a dynamic relationship between strategic and legal development, such that changes in the strategic environment drive constitutional changes in states and the evolution of state's constitutions change the strategic environment. As a consequence history has moved through various stages which correspond to the development of modern states, with each stage centered on an "epochal war" (often a series of conflicts) which separates the successful constitutional form from the unsuccessful. It is long, dense and academic, but well worth the slog.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Terry Quirke

    A tome of a read but well worth the effort, Bobbitt poses an intriguing link between the development of military strategy/technology and the development of legal states. The net is cast wide and covers an enormous amount of information, and generally Bobbitt manages to hold it all together and has a good writing style to keep the reader on the journey. Thought provoking and written before the events of 9/11 and recent Middle Eastern history, some of his possible future developments do seem to be A tome of a read but well worth the effort, Bobbitt poses an intriguing link between the development of military strategy/technology and the development of legal states. The net is cast wide and covers an enormous amount of information, and generally Bobbitt manages to hold it all together and has a good writing style to keep the reader on the journey. Thought provoking and written before the events of 9/11 and recent Middle Eastern history, some of his possible future developments do seem to be happening. A comprehensive read and you'll need to wear your thinking head but well worth it.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Dave

    If Schama's 'Citizens' is the best history book I've read with a narrow focus, this is the best one with a broader focus. The weaknesses almost all lie in the 2nd half of the book, which is not as strong as the first. The chapter on House I felt could have been eliminated all together. But the first half is so enriching and eye opening. So many things came together for me about the last 500 years of western history as I read this. If Schama's 'Citizens' is the best history book I've read with a narrow focus, this is the best one with a broader focus. The weaknesses almost all lie in the 2nd half of the book, which is not as strong as the first. The chapter on House I felt could have been eliminated all together. But the first half is so enriching and eye opening. So many things came together for me about the last 500 years of western history as I read this.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Jesse

    A wealth of knowledge to be sure, but being pre-9/11 material this is essentially a historical document giving insight into bobbit's thinking and research methods. While I wouldn't say Shield is obsolete, I expect most readers will be more interested in bobbit's more recent books "terror and consent" and/or "garments of court and state". A wealth of knowledge to be sure, but being pre-9/11 material this is essentially a historical document giving insight into bobbit's thinking and research methods. While I wouldn't say Shield is obsolete, I expect most readers will be more interested in bobbit's more recent books "terror and consent" and/or "garments of court and state".

  24. 5 out of 5

    Joshua Finnell

    After 347 pages I gave up. Bobbitt weaves together patterns in the history of military strategy, technology, world wars, diplomacy and constitutional law for 900 pages. Unfortunately, this book was too heavy for me read before falling off to sleep every night.

  25. 4 out of 5

    B. Hallward

    Although the author occasionally has some interesting ideas, he has the bad habit of mistaking assertion for argument, a chronic lack of evidence for his points and a rambling, badly-organized style of writing.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Dennis Fischman

    The same things I liked most about this book were the things I ultimately liked least. The author's erudition leads to pedantry. His ambitious reach and sweep come at the cost of precision, and he pays not enough attention to theories that compete with his or facts that contradict his explanations. The same things I liked most about this book were the things I ultimately liked least. The author's erudition leads to pedantry. His ambitious reach and sweep come at the cost of precision, and he pays not enough attention to theories that compete with his or facts that contradict his explanations.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Joe

    If you think the 20th Century was basically a Long War that started in 1914 and ended in 1990, you will like this book. If you don't like history or law or legal history, you will hate this book. I read it will listening to "Gimme Shelter" over and over again. Seemed to fit. If you think the 20th Century was basically a Long War that started in 1914 and ended in 1990, you will like this book. If you don't like history or law or legal history, you will hate this book. I read it will listening to "Gimme Shelter" over and over again. Seemed to fit.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Kristine Emanuelson

    Great book to read again and again. Ok, it's pretty thick, however, no where else will you find a concise picture of the struggles of the history of the city, state, princedoms, kingdoms and future conflict management. Jump in, and start it, and save space for reflection! Great book to read again and again. Ok, it's pretty thick, however, no where else will you find a concise picture of the struggles of the history of the city, state, princedoms, kingdoms and future conflict management. Jump in, and start it, and save space for reflection!

  29. 4 out of 5

    David sun

    If you want to know the course of western history then this is the book for you.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Dirk

    The scope of Bobbitt's work is as breathtaking as advertised, that the results aren't exactly revolutionary doesn't really mean this it isn't worth a read. The scope of Bobbitt's work is as breathtaking as advertised, that the results aren't exactly revolutionary doesn't really mean this it isn't worth a read.

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