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How Everything Became War and the Military Became Everything: Tales from the Pentagon

3.98  ·  Rating details ·  875 Ratings  ·  163 Reviews
The first serious book to examine what happens when the ancient boundary between war and peace is erased.

Once, war was a temporary state of affairs—a violent but brief interlude between times of peace. Today, America’s wars are everywhere and forever: our enemies change constantly and rarely wear uniforms, and virtually anything can become a weapon. As war expands, so does
Hardcover, 448 pages
Published August 9th 2016 by Simon Schuster
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The Pfaeffle Journal (Diane)
Nov 01, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017
I found Rosa Brooks via David Rothkopf’s Deep State Podcast. As a neophyte to foreign policy, listening to the podcast has been a learning experience. I downloaded the book from Audible as I thought it might be easier to digest it by listening (and it was, at least for me it was).

Rosa Brooks is the daughter of Barbara Ehrenreich, a professor at Georgetown University Law Center and, a columnist for Foreign Policy magazine. From April 2009 to July 2011, Brooks served as counselor to the Under Secr
Mikey B.
Jul 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book explores a vast array of subject areas. Many are interesting and some searing. There are times when the Pentagon, the military (meaning U.S.) completely disappears in many chapters.

The author is in many ways positive about the military. In the U.S. it is seen in a far more positive light than other government institutions. When in need, call the troops. Or to use another phrase about Prussia is the U.S. becoming an “Army with a State”? The military is the largest employee in the U.S. A
Larry Bassett
Sep 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: war, audio
"Rosa Brooks traces this seismic shift in how America wages war from an unconventional perspective—that of a former top Pentagon official who is the daughter of two anti-war protesters and a human rights activist married to an Army Green Beret. Her experiences lead her to an urgent warning: When the boundaries around war disappear, we risk destroying America’s founding values and the laws and institutions we’ve built—and undermining the international rules and organizations that keep our world f ...more
Mar 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is an excellent book. Even as a staunch Clausewitzian myself, I found I had very little heart burn with Ms. Brooks' characterization of war. In fact, I'd argue that it is essential that Clausewitzians should consider and wrestle with other forms of the characterization of war--even if the Prussian philosopher's is probably still the best accounting for the empirical data of war.

The only major critique of Brooks' book is that while there is a bit of an explanation of "how everything became w
Alex Linschoten
Aug 10, 2016 rated it liked it
A useful summary of various trends relating to the law and the role of more stable countries (particularly the US) in engaging in conflicts around the world. For anyone who's been following these things closely, there probably isn't too much of the middle descriptive chapters to reward the price of the book; rather, download the kindle sample and get a sense of the overall argument that way. For a general audience/reader, this offers an extremely readable way into the legal, moral and practical ...more
Mar 05, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book made me consider points of view that I had not considered before. The perspective of a civilian who has worked both for civilian agencies and the Department of Defense brings a unique view. Some of which she writes is not new, such as the Kosovo Precedent and her concerns of drone warfare. However I would recommend this book to anyone seeking to understand how our government increasingly relies on the military to do nearly anything with respect to foreign policy.
Dec 18, 2016 rated it really liked it
"War made the state and the state made war" is a common explanation of the formation of modern societies. But this quote doesn't belong solely to history. War is continuing to remake modern states in new ways. When combined with rapid technological change and globalization, war is transforming the United States in particular into a country that is constantly in a kind of "war" but lacks the legal and social categories that can regulate its own behavior. As such, war is seeping into every aspect ...more
Aug 29, 2016 rated it really liked it
As a development economist it was insightful to read this book to have a clear understanding of why I keep coming across problems with the military stepping on NGOs and non-profit toes. I don't like it but I understand a bit more what is happening.
Moreover I felt that the discussion of the drone program was insightful and made me think a bit more about the reasoning behind it as I find the drones seem to detract from the horrors of war that we are supposed to feel so as not to keep repeating it
Oct 07, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: military
An interesting read about how the Military has gradually become responsible for more and more responsibilities once tasked to Civilian agencies. What I assumed would be a critique of that the author instead takes an interesting turn and suggests that "heck why fight the trend, let the Military keep growing and taking over other agencies" until that day when the Military basically does everything and is the Executive arm of the Executive Branch.

While her thesis makes sense she did also state the
Justin Evans
Sep 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history-etc
A model non-fiction blockbuster: well written, comprehensive, but with a clear argument. As the US government defunds almost everything other than the military, the military is required to take on jobs that it is poorly prepared to do. And as open ended wars on drugs, terror, black people etc etc... proliferate, there seems to be nothing and nobody immune from the military's attention. Well worth reading this back to back with Fred Jameson's essay on the army as offering a possible site of polit ...more
Aug 29, 2016 rated it really liked it
This is a pretty entertaining read for a wonky book about war and law. Rosa Brooks is an engaging writer and (for me, at least) an ideal candidate to navigate the corridors of the Pentagon and explain (more or less) how we got into the military clusterfuck we're in. She's smart, clear-eyed, funny and about as sane as a person can possibly be when discussing what is honestly a pretty damn bleak state of affairs.
Stephen Case
Mar 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
Each year at my university’s academic commencement, there’s a portion of the ceremony that I never quite know how to respond to. At some point, once all the faculty are up on stage and we’ve sung the Alma Mater and maybe after the awarding of the degrees (everything tends to blur together after a while) the graduating class of ROTC officers are sworn in. Upon walking onto the stage, before even a word is spoken in explanation, these young men and women invariably receive a standing ovation from ...more
Void lon iXaarii
Nov 14, 2016 rated it really liked it
Despite starting up a bit slower I was surprised how interesting the book became later on. The author has a very interesting life story which works wonderfully for the subject matter: coming from a family of anti-war advocates and being herself against it and then moving to working inside the military gives her a very nice overview position, being able to represent and understand interestingly both sides. In particular I was surprised later on in the book just how well she spoke the military ja ...more
Tim Rose
Dec 07, 2016 rated it really liked it
At first glance this book seems to state what gets parroted frequently namely that war is being fought by a fraction of the population and an even smaller portion of the military itself. The oft-cited gulf between civilian and military personnel is alluded to in this book repeatedly. However, the book provides a unique perspective on this issue by pointing to the changing nature of war itself and focusing on technological changes and legal challenges that make war increasingly impersonal and far ...more
Nov 13, 2016 rated it really liked it
This is a book by an International Law Professor at Georgetown that is a mix of memoir, history, and policy argument about the role of law in the evolving US National Security state as it has evolved since the 2001 attacks and the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere. Professor Brooks served as a legal advisory to the Undersecretary of Defense in the Obama administration and was deeply moved by the experience, especially given her expertise in Human Rights Law and the Law of War.

There is a h
Robert Wechsler
Feb 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
This very important book provides a wide-ranging view of the American military and American civil-military relations, historical, critical, descriptive, and prescriptive. It is liberal but not ideological, with outside-the-box ideas that fall far short of calling for a reduced military role in our culture. The writing is good but not great, and the book is overlong and repetitive, so that the messages are too often lost (fortunately, the conclusion does a good job of quickly bringing everything ...more
Matt Heavner
Jun 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
A great perspective on how DoD has tried to adapt to a changing global environment. The first section on the historic narrative was the best. Next was a number of more personal, more immediate and impactful experiences that illustrate the challenges before DoD. The book provides the problem and the challenge - it is time to reimagine "DoD" / national security and what that means. (And I think perhaps even more broadly, the organization of the federal government (science through the federal gover ...more
Chad Manske
Jun 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
An outstanding read of the military industrial complex in a post 9/11 context. For being a self-proclaimed military outsider who spent 2009-11 as Michele Flournoy's deputy at USD(P), she has well captured the essence of much national security decision making challenges involving the military's use. A must read for national security professionals as she asks and grapples with many of the questions and issues most people would rather avoid!
John DeRosa
Frankly unsure how this book got such accolades. The core value of her contribution took over half the book to get to. Yet then after outlining the erosion of the law of war, she returns to a wonky memoir. And I reject her resolution to accept perpetual war.
James (JD) Dittes
This is a book about international law, and it's a book that shouldn't be judged by its cover. I know I picked it up, expecting to find something more liberal than what the book turned out to be.

The reason is the breadth of experience that Rosa Brooks can draw upon. The daughter of anti-war activists (her mother is journalist Barbara Ehrenreich), brooks taught law at the University of Virginia and worked for both the State Department and Human Rights Watch, reporting on conflict throughout the 1
Nov 27, 2016 rated it liked it
I bought the book because I had read a couple of Foreign Policy columns by Rosa Brooks and generally liked her critical insights and open writing style. Hence, I started reading the book enthusiastically... but that enthusiasm wavered quickly. "How Everything Became War" is a collection of my articles that, by and large, make the same points: (1) distinction between war and peace has become vague; (2) US military is engaged in more and more non-traditional tasks; (3) neither civil nor military l ...more
Camille McCarthy
Dec 04, 2016 rated it liked it
This was an excellent topic and I thought Rosa Brooks did a good job of making it accessible to the common American. She uses a lot of her own life experiences as examples for her points but also includes some of the history regarding war and how to mitigate it. Since drone warfare is such a recent phenomenon, and it's so secretive, little is known about it, so I thought it was nice that she talks about the legal implications of drone warfare with regard to international law. I felt that I benef ...more
Nov 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: social
You always like a book that reinforces your opinions (even prejudices), but what made this special for me was the almost anthropological basis of the argument -- that we are troubled by our nation's reliance on and use of the military not because they are inherently wrong, but because they violate our notions of what constitutes times of "war" and of "peace." Brooks herself is concerned with how this will affect our attitudes toward international law and human rights.
Early in the text, she te
Since 2001 the nature and definition of war has shifted. Bush flooded the Department of Defense with cash and relied on it win the peace in two countries. The US military has the biggest budget and a working bureaucracy, so it is tasked with handling the jobs that were traditionally done by our underfunded State Department.

Why I started this book: The title and the fact that it was available on Overdrive made it the perfect fit.

Why I finished it: Brooks argued that the military might not want ev
Steven Hull
Jan 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book is about the transformation of war, and a backstory about the transformation of the author, Rosa Brooks. Raised in a liberal, activist family, ignorant of the military and its ways, over time Brooks takes jobs in the Pentagon, becomes a lawyer on war and international law, and eventually marries a U.S. Army Special Forces officer. But make no mistake. Ms. Brooks is firmly grounded in personal integrity, fairness, and the rule of law. Much of the transformation the U.S. military experi ...more
David Swanson
Dec 07, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audiobook
Similar to other forms of government, the military is asked to do the things no one else wants to do. That's not meant to imply that the military wants to do them either but the military accepts their mission and gets on with it. These 'asks' have gone beyond what most people would assume is the purpose of the military but Brooks causes us to consider how national security has changed and how the military has evolved and ought to evolve. The U.S. spends more on defense than the next 15 countries ...more
Nick Gleason
Aug 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
This was an entertaining and insightful read, but became tediously redundant. The central argument, that the military is encroaching into traditionally civilian functions of our foreign policy, and that this is a result of our evolving perception of what is and what is not war, is made over and over again with only slight variation in the evidence used. It could be that I didn't need convincing, I'm inclined to agree with Ms. Brook's premise, and the abundance of evidence is aimed at those who n ...more
Dec 18, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2016
An outside perspective on the Department of Defense told through a lawyer's eyes. A democratic liberal, Rosa Brooks reflects on her time working at the Pentagon and exploring the battlefields in Iraq and Afghanistan to provide another view of the military industrial complex, offering a different way forward.
Aug 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Enjoyed this a lot. I felt like Brooks really nailed the military sections but the legal discussion was a bit weak. Maybe she was holding back because it's her area of expertise and this was aimed at the general public.

Would definitely recommend.
Mel Foster
Nov 26, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: liberty, politics
Asks many excellent questions. Overall a very fair analysis. Occasionally the legal and moral positivism bleeds through. I'm still digesting. Complete review to follow.
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“It's the secrecy surrounding drone strikes that's most troubling. . . We don't know the targeting criteria, or whether the rules for CIA and military drone strikes differ; we don't know the details of the internal process through which targets are vetted; we don't know the chain of command, or the details of congressional oversight. The United States does not release the names of those killed, or the location or number of strikes, making it impossible to know whether those killed were legitimately viewed as combatants or not. We also don't know the cost of the secret war: How much money has been spent on drone strikes? What's the budget for the related targeting and intelligence infrastructures? How is the government assessing the costs and benefits of counterterrorism drone strikes? That's a lot of secrecy for a targeted killing program that has reportedly caused the deaths of several thousand people. (117-118)” 3 likes
“While it is a truism to observe that if humans were angels, law would be unnecessary, we could equally turn the truism around, and note that if humans were devils, law would be pointless. In this sense, the law-making project always presupposes the improvability, if not the perfectibility, of humankind. Whether our view of human nature tends toward Hobbesian grimness or Rousseauian equanimity, we tend to think of law as critical to reducing brutality and violence.” 1 likes
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