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Command in War Paperback – 1 Jul 1987


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One of the finest and most perceptive military historians writing in English today...Van Creveld has marshaled more than enough historical evidence--and with great depth and richness--to support his conclusions. -- Robert L. Goldich Armed Forces and Society One cannot but admire the author's excellent discussion of how modern technology has complicated command and the processes of command; of the interaction of this complication with the political complexities of Vietnam; and of the uses and limitations of systems analysis in general, and in Vietnam in particular. -- Trevor Dupuy Washington Times I can think of few books on military subjects of greater originality and importance than Martin van Creveld's scholarly and fascinating dissertation on command in war...The subject is examined in depth, supported by a wide historical base, with a perceptive, unprejudiced eye, and the result expressed in clear prose of high literary merit. -- Michael Carver Royal United Services Institute for Defence Studies Journal [Van Creveld] provides us with a vivid historical narrative of the significant steps in the evolution of command systems from the Greek period to the Vietnam war: the birth of the nation-state regular army, the rise of the science of military strategy, the advent of new communication technologies, the development of means for mobilization, and the emergence of computer and space technologies. Ethics

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Amazon.com: 12 reviews
31 of 33 people found the following review helpful
Command in War 5 May 2000
By r.j. zafft - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This is the best non-fiction book I have ever read. Van Creveld traces the history of command systems in organized warfare. His conclusion is that successful command systems did not employ breathrough technology but, rather, so organized themselves that they could function with less information flow. They did this by either compressing the organization so less communication was needed (e.g., the phalanx) or decentralizing decision making so that information did not have to flow as far up or down the organization. Added to this informational efficiency was a "directed telescope" that permitted commanders to focus on essential points in the system in detail, which had the secondary purpose of keeping lower level commanders honest through fear of intense scrutiny from on high. Finally, informal channels of communication existed to grease the wheels of the formal system, as well as to permit temporary but essential circumvention of the formal system in emergencies.
Van Creveld's scholarship is broad and impressive; he researched in, and translated from, several languages. His sense of irony and good story telling make for a can't-put-down read.
This book is great for military buffs, and is equally useful for business managers who recognize that the hot new management buzzwords being hawked by the consultant industry cannot compare to thoughtful analysis.
By the way, for those who believe the Internet will easily and immediately change how we do business, check out van Creveld's Technology and War.
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
A Commanding Read! 15 Jan. 2003
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I first heard about this book during lectures on military leadership. When I finally got around to buying it and started reading it, I could not put this book down. It thoroughly engrossed me in the subject of command under wartime conditions. Although the book uses examples from purely the land warfare aspect, it is easy to see how the concept of command can and ultimately does encompass all three services. The author has researched this subject extremely well (the endnotes are endless)and the bibliography exhaustive. I highly recommend this book to all military enthusiasts as well as the military professional.
6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Wonderful and Lucid Book on Command 7 Aug. 2001
By Nathan Albright - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is the first book by Martin Van Crevold I have read, but it is a fine one. In this wonderful tome, Van Crevold analyzes the problem of military command in detail, looking at the evolution of Command systems, paying close attention to Napoleon, Van Moltke, Israel during 1967 and 1973, and the United States in Vietnam. A must buy for any military history buff.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Command in War 26 Feb. 2010
By M. G. R. Maran - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Martin Van Creveld had chosen to use military history as the backbone to his thesis on Command and Conrol. The book not only deals with contemporary issues related to command, but traces the evolution of command and control alongside the development of warfare. This excellent analysis of specific battles is a good read for all who need to understand the fundamentals of command and control through storytelling.
Van Creveld on Command.... 6 Mar. 2008
By D.S.Thurlow - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Distinguished military historian Martin Van Creveld's 1985 "Command in War" is a comparative analysis of the challenges of exercising control over armies in conflict. It was and is an exceptional study on the impact of techonology, organization, and doctrine on the exercise of command.

Van Creveld cites a number of historical examples in the search by commanders for certainty on the battlefield, that is, certainty about the environment, their own forces, and the ability to communicate intent and direction. These historical examples include the ancient Greeks, the armies of Napoleon, the Prussian Armies of the wars of German unification, and the more modern armies of the First and Second World War and Vietnam.

Van Creveld's concluding thoughts suggest that neither technology nor organization nor doctrine provide any silver bullet answer to the quest for certainty; human enterprise remains subject to mistakes and the fog of war. The commander in conflict is advised to have a system suitable for his situation and his army, and make it work.

This book, although dated, is still highly recommended to students of the art of war and of command.
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