Review: How Everything Became War and the Military Became Everything

It is always a bit surprising to hear a Georgetown Law Professor write discursively, but this is one of the great strengths of How Everything Became War and the Military Became Everything. It has the title and back flap summary of another current events book focused on foreign policy.  And it certainly is that.  The parts of it that I found more thought provoking and engaging are when Rosa Brooks writes like she’s lecturing a grad student seminar in international law.

When that happens, she tells a convincing story that Western Civilization is worth saving.  That the vague consensus on values and authority of nations to enforce mores and influence on the worst of human behavior works well enough to make a positive difference.  That expressing the values of human rights, when merged with that consensus, advances the species.

Neither Books nor I believe that these institutions work all of the time.  We may not believe that they work most of the time.  Her realistic and hard won experience in these matters – she was high up in the Pentagon and significant Human Rights groups – have effectively tempered her idealism.  Though the running gag on Deep State Radio is that she’s uniformly pessimistic about humanity, but much of Everything undercuts that.  She is ruthlessly pragmatic, but ultimately seems to hold a flickering flame of hope up against the To Build a Fire odds.

The other aspect of Everything that I found compelling is her penetrating analysis of the changes technology and resulting politics have wrought in sovereignty with respect to international law.  I have long taken these legal concepts to be set in stone.  They framed my understanding of the morality of international intervention and violence. Brooks has moved me a significant distance off that base.  She has convinced me to strongly consider that enough has changed in the world that there are significant gaps in the ideas that underlie those legal constructs.  I also admit the possibility that humans may be able to adapt the ideas, laws, and consensus that form the basis for international law.

Strongly Recommended.

Comments are closed.