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Master of War: Blackwater USA's Erik Prince and the Business of War Paperback – Bargain Price, December 7, 2010

4.0 out of 5 stars 22 customer reviews

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Paperback, Bargain Price, December 7, 2010
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

CNN executive producer Simons balances private and public accounts of Erik Prince, founder and owner of the country's most notorious private military contractor. In this often glowing, mildly critical portrait, Prince is depicted as a fierce individualist, visionary entrepreneur and patriot, an upstanding guy's guy, albeit born into enormous privilege, right-wing values and Beltway ties. A determined overachiever, Prince trained as a navy SEAL until his father's death led him to an enterprising idea to provide the training facilities SEALs needed. Certain contradictions ensue: Prince is known to be deeply religious, so his affair while his first wife is dying of cancer surprised many friends. Likewise, Prince's free market faith denigrates government involvement in business, but his Blackwater project only survived by means of hefty government contracts. Simons's premise—that all questions arising from Blackwater's relevance go back to one man—justifies emphasis on the personal, but the book is most instructive when straying to include Dick Cheney's impact on Pentagon outsourcing or General Sanchez's frustration over boundary confusion in Iraq between U.S. soldiers and the State Department's veritable private army. (July)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From the Back Cover

The world first learned ofBlackwater USA in March2004 when several of its menwere ambushed and killed inFallujah, Iraq. Their bodieswere badly beaten, and twowere then hung from a bridge as a sign ofIraqi resistance to the U.S. occupation. Inthe years that followed, Blackwater grew tobecome one of the U.S. government’s mosttrusted partners in Iraq and Afghanistan,despite headline-grabbing controversiessuch as the shooting of Iraqi civilians byBlackwater guards in a Baghdad trafficcircle in 2007.

Based on her extraordinary access toBlackwater founder Erik Prince and dozensof his key executives, author SuzanneSimons offers a riveting, eye-openingportrait of the former Navy SEAL andthe company that became the face ofprivate warfare in the twenty-first century.Prince sat atop an empire that not onlyincluded a massive training complex formilitary and law enforcement but alsocomprised an entire aviation division thatcatered to military needs in the world’smost dangerous locations and a privatespy company run by former top CIA men.Master of War is an intimate look at the riseand fall of an extraordinary company—ledby a contemporary prince, unaccountableto American voters, with the instrumentsof war at his disposal.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; Reprint edition (December 7, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061672718
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061672712
  • ASIN: B005IUY3VO
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,308,443 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By J. Larson on November 20, 2011
Format: Hardcover
1) This book is a quick read that provides a very broad treatment of Erik Prince and his Company Blackwater. You read it because you have an interest in how someone lives their life and how they created a vision and then made it come to life.

2) I walked away with respect for Erik Prince. He worked hard to create a company and then even harder to make it profitable. Even if you don't like guns or war, you could just strip that away and see how management accomplished some pretty amazing things. Erik was driven and worked hard to surround himself with people who could get things done. I was impressed with his poise and how he continually had to prepare for testimony in front of Congress, while writing new contracts with other agency's.

3) I was frustrated with the agency's of the government. You have to do things their way, expect no support when things go wrong, and then they need you so much they can't fire you. How messed up is that.

4) I was also interested in the lack of overall control in Iraq, a lack of a fundamental message, no real strategy that I could figure out, and constant infighting. No wonder things did not go well.

5) After the Blackwater brand was damaged I understood the company name change. Google now says Prince has a personal net worth of $2.7 Billion. I doubt that is correct, but if it is in the ballpark he has done well.

6) This book is like a piece of cake. It looks good, is easy to digest, but the sugar high doesn't last long.
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Format: Hardcover
This excellent account compares favorably with Jeremy Scahill's 2007 book about Blackwater, in that it is based on interviews with Erik Prince and other key Blackwater execs, and reviews the private military contractor's accomplishments as well as failures. It also carries the story forward to the end of 2008, including all the legal difficulties at the end of the company's existence. It is very enjoyable to read but could have benefited from at least some footnoting of sources relied upon.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Uncritical, pseudo-biographical puff-piece in book form. Not quite hagiographic, but certainly fawning.

"M.o.W." is also missing the serious strategic analysis that, while probably more likely to contribute to a less-flattering narrative for Prince and his firm (especially in the context of corrupt government contracting), would've generated some historical value for the book. Another reader notes, "Blackwater started with $200,000 in contracts in 2000, and ended up with over $1 billion income in the next seven years. Simons explains very little of how that occurred." HBS won't pull a case-study out of this text...

Looking back on "M.o.W." post-Snowden, in the age of Greenwald and Poitras when they're at the height of their professional power, success and relevance, this book seems to be the antithesis of real investigative journalism. It reads like something one would expect from a strategic/crisis communications firm.

"A CNN producer and anchor, Suzanne Simons is the first journalist to get deep inside Blackwater—and, as a result of her unprecedented access..." <===== says it all. "M.o.W." = "access-journalism", not investigative journalism. Meh.

Nevertheless, given that you can buy a brand-new hardback version for $1.84 (+ $3.99 shipping), it's ok.

"Master of War" is literally a sub-$2 book.
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Format: Hardcover
Simons begins "Master of War" telling us us that "No company has ever amassed Blackwater's size, strength, and full-service military capabilities . . . within a few short years it boasted more weaponry, manpower, and high-tech systems than many small countries." A good buildup, but the book fails to deliver any information of significance.

Erik Prince, its founder, grew up in a well-to-family (family business was sold for $1.35 billion after father died at an early age) with family friends that included Chuck Colson, Gary Bauer, and James Dobson. Erik's was admitted to the Naval Academy, but left in his sophomore year because of "overly stringent rules," then enrolled in and graduated from Hillsdale College, became a White House Fellow, and ended up transferring to Rep. Dana Rohrabacher's office. Prince became enamored with Navy OCS and becoming a Seal, which he accomplished. However, after about two years, Prince resigned at a time when his wife was battling cancer (eventually died) and his family was dealing with issues following his father's death.

Prince decided to focus on providing training facilities for Navy Seals that would be superior to what he had experienced. Soon was providing assistance training local law enforcement, then began picking up Navy contracts after getting on the approved contractor's list. (Prince was also a major Republican donor, though the book does not link those donations to favors received.) Eventually became a contractor providing security for Paul Bremer in Baghdad - State Dept. supposedly lacked the ability to do so in a combat zone. Prince's wealth also allowed the company to provide helicopters, according to Simons.

Blackwater became famous when four of its contractors were killed and hung from a bridge in Fallujah.
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