In This Review

The Shield of Achilles: War, Peace, and the Course of History
The Shield of Achilles: War, Peace, and the Course of History
By Philip Bobbitt
Alfred A. Knopf, 2002, 976 pp

Bobbitt's sprawling account tackles the relationship between war, military revolution, the state, and international order. Great wars have shaped states as they evolved from monarchical to territorial to national entities; in turn, states have used postwar peace settlements to recast the organizing principles of the international system. This cycle is still conditioning world politics today. The most recent epochal war, according to Bobbitt, stretched from 1914 to the end of the Cold War and constituted a "long war" that culminated in the "market state." But today's order carries with it the seeds of future conflict and the threat of a new epochal war. The old order was built on sovereign states that ensured their security through deterrence. Today, these states are increasingly vulnerable to weapons of mass destruction that could fall into the hands of nonstate groups that cannot be deterred. Bobbitt's central message is the reminder that a state's legitimacy is tied to its ability to monopolize the use of force and operate effectively in an international strategic environment. Today, however, the capacities of states to do so are changing rapidly -- and thus so will the character of the modern state.