External Book Review List



The items below are links to reviews in the public press or academic journals. All reviews are offered without endorsement of any kind. They are presented to provide readers with an evaluation of defence literature, both regarding past events and current affairs. Reviews are the personal opinion of the reviewer and do not represent the position of the Royal United Services Institute of Victoria Inc.

Note that some reviews are links to other organisations. No connection, implied or otherwise, exists between RUSI of Vic Inc  and these organisations unless specifically acknowledged.

A number of book reviews appear in our newsletters. A list of those books reviewed in those newsletters can be found here. 


If the newsletter is not currently available on our site, please contact us for a copy of that review.


Bill Hayton. The South China Sea: The Struggle for Power in Asia. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2014. xviii + 298 pp. $35.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-300-18683-3.
Reviewed June 2015

Sean McFate. The Modern Mercenary: Private Armies and What They Mean for World Order. New York: Oxford University Press, 2015. 272 pp. $29.95 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-19-936010-9.

Reviewed by Lindsay P. Cohn (Naval War College)


Reviewed July 2015

Extract of the review.

"What makes the South China Sea a civilization is that its very diverse and frequently conflicting constituent parts lived self-consciously together with a somewhat consistent and predictable system of relations. Hayton draws on other scholars to call this the “Mandala” system, in contrast to the Western “Westphalian” system. From the eighteenth century onwards, European statesmen assumed that their authority extended consistently across all areas within their defined political boundaries, ...."

"...Sean McFate’s ambitious book, The Modern Mercenary, aims to both contextualize and explain the phenomenon of the private market for force, and to do so he reaches back to the late medieval period. The book thus attempts to cover about a thousand years of history, and ostensibly to produce a new theory of international relations that will more accurately describe what McFate sees as a post-Westphalian world. The chapters on modern PMCs are valuable both as a synthesis of current debates and as a detailed look at how the private market for force functions. The quasi-historical and theoretical chapters are weaker...."

Jack Fairweather. The Good War: Why We Couldn't Win the War or the Peace in Afghanistan.
New York: Basic Books, 2014. Pp. xx, 396. ISBN 978–0–465–04495–5.
Reviewed Aug 2015
Matthew Evangelista, Henry Shue, eds. The American Way of Bombing: Changing Ethical and Legal Norms, from Flying Fortresses to Drones.
Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2014. 328 pp. $24.95 (paper), ISBN 978-0-8014-7934-2
Reviewed Aug 2015.

"..."Good War Gone Bad" is a familiar historical refrain regarding war in Afghanistan, best accompanied by a rubab, the lute-like Afghan musical instrument. Britons and Russians know the tune well. Americans thought they could rewrite it. ....In The Good War, veteran British foreign correspondent Jack Fairweather[1]ably follows in a British tradition of reporting from the frontlines that goes back to the Crimean War. William Howard Russell of the Times, for example, routinely shocked Victorian England with his frank reportage of bloody mistakes like the Charge of the Light Brigade. Similarly, to cite one instance, Fairweather criticizes military officials for calling one operation a "significant success," when, as he demonstrates, it "succeeded only in strengthening the insurgency" ..."

"Aerial bombardment remains important to military strategy, but the norms governing bombing and the harm it imposes on civilians have evolved.....

The American Way of Bombing brings together prominent military historians, practitioners, civilian and military legal experts, political scientists, philosophers, and anthropologists to explore the evolution of ethical and legal norms governing air warfare."

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