Philip C. Bobbitt

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

Excerpts from British Reviews

  • "One of the highlights of 2002."
    The Guardian as selected by Anthony Holden and Jon Snow
  • "Among Britain's most powerful, one book has become required reading."
    – Sir Michael Howard in The Guardian
  • "It is tempting to call Philip Bobbitt's huge magnum opus majestic. But that is only half the truth. It is also argumentative, opinionated, brilliant and will be very controversial, as he no doubt hopes. Not surprising that Sir Michael Howard, Regius Professor of Modern History at Oxford and writer of the foreword to the book, call it "one of the most important works on international relations published during the last 50 years." It is a triumph, though a terrifying one … Bobbitt's history and prediction is not comfortable, but it is awe-inspiring. An alarming glimpse of our future … argumentative, opinionated, brilliant … a triumph."
    Evening Standard
  • "[A] very important book … [Bobbitt] knows his stuff, but rarely struts it: he is earnest but seldom pompous, well-informed but never grand … He plays hardball, but with a sense of the importance of the rules as well as muscle … Bobbitt has the knowledge and nerves to cut the quibbles. What review could do justice to the range and intelligence of a work so full of ideas, proposals and fears and hopes for the future of civilization? Closely argued … chilling … persuasive … This tome is readable for its sustained intelligence and honesty."
    Sunday Times (London)
  • "I cannot praise the work too highly. It will be one of the most important works on international relations published during the last fifty years."
    – Sir Michael Howard
  • "It [The Shield of Achilles] is a sprawling, Texas-size work both because its author, Philip Bobbitt, is a professor of constitutional law at the University of Texas and because it has caught the attention of the Texan-led administration that now holds sway in Washington, D.C."
    The Economist
  • "Bobbitt is not just another prophet of doom, bewailing the loss of past certainties and warning of a coming Armageddon. The Shield of Achilles is an audacious, massively informed analysis of the nature of the modern state and of modern war over five hundred years. … Much of The Shield of Achilles is devoted to demonstrating that the modern age really has been shaped by war and law, which flies defiantly in the face of a century of Marxist and sub-Marxist belief in the historical force of class conflict and systems of production."
    Literary Review
  • "Thought-provoking … [a] wide-ranging, ambitiously conceived and intelligently argued book … The real, practical purpose of the book is Bobbitt's analysis of the new international environment. It is here that he brings to bear to good effect his academic insights and practical experience. Philip Bobbitt's future scenarios are based on an intelligent and cautiously realistic extrapolation of current security and political developments. We ignore them at our peril…"
    The Times Literary Supplement (TLS)
  • "One of the key texts at the birth of the new century."
    – Philip Ziegler
  • "London and Oxford, Washington and Texas are his spiritual and actual homes; and the almost Germanic structure of his argument is relieved by his engagingly fresh English prose."
    The Guardian
  • "Awesome … a tour de force of historical enquiry and futuristic speculation. All interested in the present condition of the human race and the choices before us ought to read it."
    Glasgow Herald
  • "We are all about to have our way of looking at the world turned upside down by this superb book by the American historian and former member of the National Security Council, Philip Bobbitt."
    The Guardian
  • "America has a beacon to guide it through this horror. All empires need their Macaulay and America has Philip Bobbitt whose Shield of Achilles scans the exercise of power from ancient times to September 11 … this book could hardly have been better timed. September 11 was a clear case of 'as I was about to tell you.' Al Qaeda's global reach, its off-shore wealth and suicidal warriors are a perfect example of Bobbitt's new sort of war machine…"
    The Times, (London)
  • "This chaotic situation has led political thinkers on both sides of the Atlantic – Philip Bobbitt in America, Robert Cooper over here – to demand a total paradigm shift in our approach to international order. Globalisation, they argue, has meant the end of the territorial nation state and the advent, they argue, of 'market-states' or nation-states whose power transends territorial boundaries. With that power goes – or should go – responsibility for the maintenance of order among impotant and backward 'pre-modern' states, not only moral but prudential responsibility for rescuing their populations from starvation, enforcing human rights, and ensuring that they do not spawn bellicose dictators or provide safe harbour for terrorist and pirates."
    Financial Times
  • "Europeans have not absorbed The Shield of Achilles, the key text by Philip Bobbitt, a security intellectual and former Clinton intelligence chief, which describes at prescient length the new dealing-room of international relations and the brutal terms of trade that American will dictate there as a matter of survival."
    The Guardian
  • "The Shield of Achilles is perhaps a unique book for it sets aside what has until recently been the conventional wisdom of those engaged in the study and practice of international relations … What makes Bobbitt different from most commentators, however, is that he is prepared to be prescriptive, to outline a strategy on which the generals and other directors of an increasingly complex security effort might plan … This is a bold book, a brave book and a worthy primer for the essential study of where we go from here."
    The Times
  • "A blockbuster on the history and future of the modern state … I defy you to read this and claim your understanding has not been enriched."
    The Independent
  • "Remarkable … breathtaking in its range of reference, forcefully written."
    London Review of Books
  • "An epochal work … A truly cataclysmic war, Bobbitt claims, is possible in the next couple of decades and the risk of the Bomb being used is greater now than at any time since 1945. What is really frightening is that most of The Shield of Achilles was written before 11 September."
    Scotland on Sunday
  • "A big book that asks big questions about the past, present and future … interesting and always provocative."
    Sunday Telegraph
  • "Along with the history lesson, the 'scenario suites' and his policy menu choices, Bobbitt exhibits a chronic weakness for human learning. The is dazzling."
    Times Higher Education Supplement