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The Transformation Of War

3.96 of 5 stars 3.96  ·  rating details  ·  198 ratings  ·  15 reviews
At a time when uprecedented change in international affairs is forcing governments, citizens, and armed forces everywhere to re-assess the question of whether military solutions to political problems are possible any longer. Martin van Creveld has written an audacious searching examination of the nature of war and of its radical transformation in our own time.
Hardcover, First Edition, 254 pages
Published March 31st 1991 by The Free Press
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A rather interesting military history, and still somewhat prescient despite being published around the time of the First Iraq War.

His main contention is that the Clausewitzian idea of set piece warfare which developed after the 19th century and the Napoleonic wars is becoming obsolete. When you first read this, you think it's completely obvious. 'Of course nobody fights wars like Napoleon anymore, don't be silly.'

Creveld at least backs up his assertion with the fact that nuclear war has made wa
There is some good analysis of terrorism and how non state actors interact with state actors. Unfortunately his analysis of Clausewitzian warfare is fundamentally flawed.

He seems to think that the Clausewitzian trinity is a state based interaction between the people, the army and the government. If he had read a decent translation of 'On War' he would have found that it is hatred and enmity, mostly associated with the people, chance and probability, mostly associated with the army and sublimati
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Bob H
This, along with "The Coming Anarchy" by Robert Kaplan, was a leading analysis of the post-Soviet world, and spot-on in its conclusions. In essence, he predicted future conflicts that would be far more chaotic, low-tech and complicated than what had happened before. The comparisons to Clausewitz are, in part, because the separation of state, army and people as entities in conflicts, one that went back from the 20th Century all the way to the Peace of Westphalia in 1648, was breaking down. This w ...more
Not terrible, but not what I was hoping for either. Having just finished van Creveld's Rise and Decline of the State, I was expected a similarly-researched historical work detailing low-intensity conflicts since 1945 in support of construction of some challenging theses. Unfortunately, The Transformation of War is primarily a philosophical work which draws on some historical data to support its conclusions rather than a strongly-supported historical work. TToW's primary argument is that the West ...more
David Hill
The book is subtitled "The Most Radical Reinterpretation of Armed Conflict Since Clausewitz". I have no idea if this is a true statement or not. I have not read Clausewitz, and I haven't read much on the philosophy of war.

This book is primarily a critique of Clausewitz. Van Creveld does a very thorough job of telling us how Clausewitz was correct, but only for 300 years - between the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648 and the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima in 1945. He makes his case by telli
Dermot Nolan
For a critique of Clausewitz 'On War' one would imagine that this book be somewhat turgid and unwieldy. Alas it is not. It is infact very very readable. Very concise. And very forcefully argued. I would imagine that this is the book that Rupert Smith wanted to emulate when he wrote 'Utility of Force'. And whereas Smiths book is quite profound and forceful in its arguement it is a little on the grand sweeping side, and it is also written in the grandiloquent fashion found in 'On War'. Van Creveld ...more
Hj Reichen
The book written at the beginning of the nineties is impressive, due to the fact that it describes some of the evolutions of warfare in the last 25 years. However the book lacks some larger historical backing and has a bit of philosophical feel to it introduction rather good. Even though van creveld brings up some interesting points on Clausewitz, his continuing pounding is annoying. I still am convinced that it is a must read to understand the paradigma change at the end of the Cold War
A very concise summary of military structures from the 19th century through the 20th. The author clearly defines how conflict has radically changed, with nuclear weapons making large scale warfare between states impossible. The massive military power of the west has led to a scenario where low intensity conflict, almost unrecognizable from crime, is the norm. The author details how modern military establishments are completely unprepared and improperly structured and organized to fight these bat ...more
Joe Vaughn
Dec 28, 2007 Joe Vaughn rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: The Pentagon...
Uncomfortably prescient for a publication 17 years old. While I don't necessarily agree with standing armies as monolithic, the case for the evolution of splintered organisations using harassing strategies involving the min/max of pain--be it physical, emotional, mental and any combination therein--is straight out of Sun-Tzu.

So too are the counter-measures--something Van Creveld unforgivably doesn't explore.

Howard Anders
The author postulates that the changes in the way war is now conducted make Carl von Clausewitz's theories on war obsolete. He explains, with dry wit, how and why this occurred, and offers an alternative. Stimulating and entertaining.
Contains many insightful observations, but at times lacks analytical rigor. Still, the final chapter (on "Future War," written in 1991) is worth the price of the book.
how our adherence to outdated notions of warfare cripples us in the coming century. and why nuclear weapons are more a liability than an asset.
Remarkably prescient [more to come].
Jan 13, 2010 Anders rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone
Classic book. Must read for those wishing to understand our present and future. It is not just about war, but also about politics and human nature. It also shows how the current state system will be obsolete.
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Martin Levi van Creveld (born 5 March 1946) is an Israeli military historian and theorist.

Van Creveld was born in the Netherlands in the city of Rotterdam, and has lived in Israel since shortly after his birth. He holds degrees from the London School of Economics and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, where he has been on the faculty since 1971. He is the author of seventeen books on military his
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