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

3.95  ·  Rating details ·  1,275 ratings  ·  201 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 doe
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.
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
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
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
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
Peter (Pete) Mcloughlin
Pentagon wonk talks about the military culture and how are military dominates our state and culture. She talks about her experiences working in the Pentagon. About drone warfare the entangled relationship between the state, warfare, and its impact on the rule of law. Drone warfare and what worries US military planners (believe it or not it is climate change and global economic collapse N.B.). How the military is replacing a decaying welfare state for small-town America among other topics. Inside ...more
Richard Thompson
I had a visceral feeling of dislike for this book, but I found the reasons for my reaction hard to pinpoint. Various criticisms passed through my mind -- that it isn't well organized, that it mixes memoir and analysis, that it didn't tell me anything that I didn't already know. But none of these complaints really held up upon reflection. The organization isn't awful, the genre mixing isn't misleading, and there are as many new thoughts as in other books that I enjoyed. The writing is good, and f ...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
Nov 01, 2019 rated it it was ok
This book should have been good, and I really wanted to like it. However, I found her whole argument to be basically circular, dizzying, and difficult to follow. What should have been an interesting dive into the history of U.S. conflict and militarization (maybe amplified by some cool documents, interviews, or released information), was instead a dizzying and often annoying thought experiment for a philosophy student. I don't know what her main thesis was, and the entire book was the author goi ...more
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
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
Aug 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
A very interesting examination of the US Military and it’s role, especially since 9/11. Worth a read.
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
Sep 29, 2019 rated it did not like it
I started the book hoping for interesting commentary but it ended with the author developing a starry-eyed view of the military and how it gets things done. She overestimates its efficiency (let alone the inherent goodness of some of the people involved, or what they really want)—a friend who also read it and has worked for the defense dept for past 10 years (including a lot of overlap with the author) described the author’s faith in their efficiency as “like a child’s.” [this may be slander on ...more
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
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.
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
Jan 18, 2019 rated it liked it
Yes, this book took me a longtime to slog through but in the end it was very good and thought provoking. Ms Brooks is an obviously talented writer and law professor. 2019 and the events she writes about from 2001 still are in play...sad commentary or a portend of how wars will be waged in future years?!
Maria LeBerre
Sep 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Very interesting. I've read about some of this before, but Rosa Brooks added additional context. The book is objective, not always taking a particular position on what's right or wrong but more so explaining what's been going on. I trust her more than more partisan types.
Lukas Strandberg
Focuses more on the legal and philosophical aspects of the military industrial complex.
Randall Wallace
Dec 28, 2016 rated it liked it
According to political sociologist Charles Tilly, bandits and strongmen ruled Europe until the rise of the state which could then outmuscle the strong men. Taxation allowed states to raise revenue to the point that non-state actors could no longer compete with the state. “Nineteenth-century British legal philosopher John Austin declared that law is nothing more than the commands of a sovereign, backed by the threat of force.” Many memos are labelled Top Secret not because they should be, but so ...more
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
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Not my usual choice for reading 1 6 Apr 19, 2016 07:24AM  

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