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The Transformation of War: The Most Radical Reinterpretation of Armed Conflict Since Clausewitz First Edition

4.5 out of 5 stars 25 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0029331552
ISBN-10: 0029331552
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Most wars since 1945 have been low-intensity conflicts and, according to the author, incomparably more significant than conventional wars in terms of casualties suffered and political results achieved. Citing the dismal record of regular forces vs. irregulars in Vietnam, Lebanon, Afghanistan and elsewhere, he suggests that as small-scale wars proliferate, conventional armed forces will shrink and the burden of protecting society will shift to the booming security business. Van Creveld, who teaches history at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, argues that the theories of Karl von Clausewitz, which form the basis for Western strategic thought, are largely irrelevant to nonpolitical wars such as the Islamic jihad and wars for existence such as Israel's Six-Day War. In the future, he prophesies, wars will be waged by groups of terrorists, guerrillas and bandits motivated by fanatical, ideologically-based loyalties; conventional battles will be replaced by skirmishes, bombings and massacres. Weapons will become less, rather than more, sophisticated and the high-tech weapons industry (which "supports itself by exporting its own uselessness") will collapse like a house of cards. A bold, provocative, frightening book.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.

About the Author

Martin van Creveld was born in the Netherlands in 1946 and has lived in Israel from 1950. Having studied in Jerusalem and London, since 1971 he has been on the faculty of the History Department, the Hebrew University, Jerusalem. A specialist in military history and strategy, he is the author of 20 books, including "The Land of Blood and Honey" and "Defending Israel", and has appeared regularly on CBS, CNN and the BBC.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press; First edition (March 31, 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0029331552
  • ISBN-13: 978-0029331552
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #291,378 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
When I finished reading this book I could hardly believe that a writer could prophesize the future war events in such a clear way. Van Creveld's thesis is that war as we know it in the last 3,5 centuries (waged between states and organized armies) has reached its end and is now in a process of radical tramsformation. Analyzing many examples from the military history he suggests that we are entering into an era where states lose the monopoly of waging war and confront non-state actors who do not embrace the same philosophical values.

Van Creveld overturns Clauzewitz's traditional views one by one, using very convincing arguments, and unfortunately he is confirmed by international events today. While reading the book there were many cases when I was dumbfounded by the fact that a writer completing his work near the end of the Cold War could see our era with such a clarity, and I was really amazed by the fact that the book was written in 1991. It is more modern than anything else I have read on the subject of modern war and surpasses even contemporary analysis. Van Creveld does not avoid to touch even hot topics, like the sheer joy of fighting (paraphrasing Clausewitz he states that war is more the continuation of sports by other means than politics) the taboo of introducing women in the armies, the role of religion in the motivation of war and the very important argument that war does not begin when someone is willing to kill but when he is willing to die for a cause.

The accuracy of his predictions is often so amazing that it becomes terrifying, especially when he states that in the future the war leaders will not be legitimate government officials but something like "The Old Man in the Mountains", meaninig the kind of warfare waged by assassins in the Middle Ages.
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Format: Hardcover
Martin van Crevald is truely one of the best strategic thinkers whom is writing today. In his more classic books like 'Supplying War: Logistics from Wallerstein to Patton' he wrote VERY credible military history that shook some of the foundations of less-sound strategic thought that was occuring concurrently; he has also written a powerful critique of people who have hopped on the shoulders of NGOs and non-state actors AND state-centered people in 'The Rise and Decline of the State'. Personally, these have over time become two of my favorite books: perhaps a couple years from now, this shall finish the trinity.
Van Crevald puts forth a case that the era of massed conventional wars have finished. For a variety of reasons, the Central-front type conflicts between the USSR and US of the fifties never happened and never will. The more conflicts have happened, the more correct he appears (this book is already eleven years old...) Trying to prepare for them is silly (much in the same way , he asserts, that National Missile Defense is....)
This is a must read for students of military strategy and affairs and international politics in general. Its quite a worthwhile book as general reading, though I think that it might be at present out of print. I highly recommend it-- and the other books listed at the beginning of this review....
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By A Customer on July 24, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Although this book was written in 1991 the scenarios and tendencies discussed in the book are now becoming reality in terrorism, civil wars in Africa and the Balkans, and the fruitless war in the Middle East between Israel and the Palestinians.
Creveld convincingly argues that the new conflicts will not neccessarily be fought between states, and that technology and military superiority are not neccessarily guarantees of victory. Creveld shows that while the militaries of the West has run away on a shopping spree to acqurie the new nifty things in the shape of fighter jets, submarines, and laser guided missiles the enemy in the shape of guerillas and terrorist have acquired other, less advanced means, to fight back. The US helicopters that were shot down in Somalia and Afghanistan were not taken down with high tech missiles - instead they were grounded by RPG-7s, a grenade launcher from the 1950s.
But Creveld does so much more with this book. Rather than being a book only about the future of war it is about the future of the international system. Creveld's book has greatly influenced other writers such as Robert Kaplan who wrote "The Coming Anarchy".
Believers in technology, the wonders of globalization, and the supremacy of the nation state should read this book and seriously consider it. The world as we know it might not be around in the future - and it doesn't look pretty.
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Format: Hardcover
To understand the review is to first know the reviewer: My background is aesthetic and I'm a teacher of literature. I stumbled across this book almost by accident; I haven't been the same since.

Prophecy is a tough trade; Van Creveld passes the test. This work is the first and best study of what is now called "4th Generation War". Indeed, it is not only -- put plain and simple -- the best theoretical work on war since Clausewitz, but it also offers an astonishingly pellucid view into the future of war. In Chapter 6, Van Creveld reaches a level of insight and eloquence about the fighting man not seen since Homer. Anyone who grew up hating war during the Vietman period, or who formed his views on war from Paul Fussell, or who posted greazy posters about how "war is not healthy for children and other living things" needs to allow himself to be transformed by _The Transformation of War_, Chapter 6. It transformed me. I never understood _The Iliad_ until I had read Van Creveld.

Must reading for all citizens. This best book I read in the 1990s -- so good that now I give talks about it.
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