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The Transformation Of War

3.91  ·  Rating details ·  383 ratings  ·  22 reviews
At a time when unprecedented 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.

For 200 year
Hardcover, First Edition, 272 pages
Published March 31st 1991 by The Free Press
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Bob H
Feb 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: military-history
This, along with The Coming Anarchy: Shattering the Dreams of the Post Cold War by Robert Kaplan, was a leading early-1990s 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 ...more
Apr 11, 2014 rated it liked it
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
Oct 15, 2010 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dermot Nolan
Dec 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
David Hill
Jul 30, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
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
Namita Barthwal
Nov 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I would suggest readers read A History of Strategy from Sun Tzu to William S. Lind after reading this book.

This book is excellent and lucid but not very systematic. The latter book is on strategy is well-organized and loosely based on the Transformation of War.
Antonio Vena
Feb 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Datato ma ancora fondamentale.
Ottimo lo svolgimento sulle armi nucleari.
Eric Dlamini
Feb 20, 2020 is currently reading it
Great study material indeed.
Reader Variety
Mar 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history-military
van Creveld is assigned reading everywhere from West Point to the Army War College, so a bit academic, but required reading for anyone with an interest in military affairs.

van Creveld's bold prediction in the early 1990s - "We are entering an era, not of peaceful economic competition between trading blocks, but of warfare between ethnic and religious groups."

claims Clausewitz no longer applies because he only envisioned state vs. state battles, and now we will see unconventional warfare

Feb 14, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: strategery
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
Dec 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: geopolitics
This book was part of the mandatory books for a course on geopolitics and war history, so I spent a lot of time analysing it.

I really liked it as it is pretty easy to read and it comes back to the same ideas over and over again. The author brings a lot of historical examples to the table and he's also quite sarcastic which is always refreshing.

Overall lovely book.
Oct 20, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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 rated it really liked it
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.

Hj Reichen
Apr 05, 2015 rated it liked it
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
Howard Anders
Jul 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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. ...more
Jan 13, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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.
Aug 10, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Una obra maestra, una lectura obligatoria. Un texto que predijo a cabalidad los hechos y la forma de ejercer la violencia política desde la descolonización hasta ahora. ¿Quieres entender los conflictos modernos y sus razones? Lee este libro. No hay desperdicio.
Sep 28, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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.
Dec 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: warfare
Very thorough, and it managed to portrait how war is mutating even 20 years after its first publishing
Dec 08, 2011 rated it really liked it
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. ...more
Remarkably prescient [more to come].
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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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