Philip C. Bobbitt

  • Distinguished Senior Lecturer

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

Excerpt: The End of the Long War and the Transformation of the Modern State

THE SHIELD OF ACHILLES is about the modern State – how it came into being, how it has developed, and in what directions we can expect it to change. Epochal wars, those great coalitional conflicts that often extend over decades, have been crucial to the birth and development of the State, and therefore much of this book is concerned with the history of warfare. Equally defining of the State has been its legal order, and so this is a book about law, especially constitutional and international law as these subjects relate to statecraft. This book, however, is neither a history of war nor a work of jurisprudence. Rather it is principally concerned with the relationship between strategy and the legal order as this relationship has shaped and transformed the modern State and the society composed of these states. A new form of the State — the market state – is emerging from this relationship in much the same way that earlier forms since the 15th century have emerged, as a consequence of the sixth great epochal war in modern history. This war, the Long War, began in 1914 and has only just ended in the preceding decade. The reason historians will treat the various conflicts of the 20th century – the First World War, the Bolshevik Revolution, the Spanish Civil War, the Second World War, the wars in Korea and Vietnam and the Cold War – as one conflict is the same reason historians treat the many conflicts that comprise the Thirty Years War as a single epochal war: because the constitutional basis of the State was at issue. The Long War, like previous epochal wars, ratified the position of a new form of the State – the nation-state. Now that form – that constitutional order – is under siege.