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The Transformation of War Hardcover – 31 Mar 1991

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 254 pages
  • Publisher: The Free Press (31 Mar. 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0029331552
  • ISBN-13: 978-0029331552
  • Product Dimensions: 15.5 x 2.5 x 23.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 326,086 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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A ghost is stalking the corridors of general staffs and defense departments all over the "developed" world-the fear of military impotence, even irrelevance. Read the first page
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Hans-Christian Bruus on 15 July 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As a recently commissioned officer, I find this work much more inspiring than much of the litterature I have been presented with at the academy. If we fail to appreciate the thoughts and reflections that is presented to us by Creveld, we fail to understand how to grasp the future of warfare and armed conflict. This book is a must-read for all professional officers.
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If you want insight into what is really going on these days regarding the conflicts in Africa, the middle East, Europe and elsewhere - as the world seems to be tearing itself apart from the inside out while we wring our hands wondering what we can or should do about it, this book is a real eye opener. Some of the points it raises have recently been made elsewhere, but Van Creveld wrote this back in 1991 and his points are even more relevant today than they were then. His analysis of how, why, where and by whom wars are fought from theoretical, practical and historic perspectives is incisive and thought provoking. His predictions for the future are extremely unsettling because, 20 years later, he has been proven right and the transformations he predicted then are well under way now and proceeding on schedule. The only thing he missed was explicitly predicting the upheaval in the middle East and North Africa, but it isn't that he got it wrong - the present chaos is entirely consistent with his analysis, there is just more of it in that region sooner than he anticipated.

Van Creveld's approach is sober and objective while observing those aspects of human nature that make warriors, soldiers and wars tick. These observations leave little room for optimism. His assessment of nuclear weapons, hi-tech heavy armaments and their relevance to the various forms of what he calls "low-intensity conflict" will make even the most hawkish think twice regarding these high budget items, not as matters of liberal principle but in terms of their practical value in successfully defending against the threats Van Creveld predicts will dominate the future and are now dominating our present. The points he raises inevitably lead to questions regarding the viability of the nation state as we know it. I will not look at war the same way after having read this book. Not a comforting read at all, but highly recommended,
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By geeee, on 16 April 2011
Format: Kindle Edition
I used this book for my history project at A level and found it useful. Personally, I wouldn't have chosen this book to read outside of school purposes, but I guess it depends on what you want to read. It is very detailed and full of Creveld's personal opinions which, again, was very helpful when studying the changing nature of warfare for a level. I would recommend this book to anyone studying similar topics.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 21 reviews
47 of 52 people found the following review helpful
Amazing!!! 10 Dec. 2004
By Dimitrios - Published on
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. He is also very critical against the current military-industrial complex and its super-expensive creations of high tech weapons, saying that all this paraphernalia of old war are like dinosaurs about to face extinction. This is a highly recommended book and it is sure that it will challenge many of your establised views on war.
32 of 36 people found the following review helpful
One of the better books on current military issues.... 9 April 2001
By J. Michael Showalter - Published on
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....
33 of 39 people found the following review helpful
BRAVO!!! 24 July 2002
By "nordenman" - Published on
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.
26 of 31 people found the following review helpful
The words of a prophet and a teacher of Homer 14 Sept. 2004
By S. R. Cundiff - Published on
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.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
A very advanced book 7 Aug. 2007
By Runamuck - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is one of the best books that I have read on war. The book covers history, government, religion, economics, law (both domestic and international). All of these areas are apart of warmaking. The author writes the book with the assuption that the reader as an indepth understanding of all these areas. If you do not have a good understanding of each of these areas, then reasoning of this book will be lost on you.

The age of this book having been written in the early 90's is what caught my eye. That made this author not one of the current glut of the new trend of writting on counterinsurgency, Islam, and the current trends of warfare now. The author speaks of many of the same techniques as the new Army/Marine's counterinsurgency manual. Again this was written 16 years ago.

I only gave this four stars because with the obvious knowledge that the author has, the conclution that the modern state and its military is going to come crumbling down is completely wrong. Even given the date of this book I find the conclusion too large of a stretch, making it an emotional arguement and one not based on sound scholary work. Which completely surprizes me with it being set in the middle of such an amazing work.

Over all this an excellent work and is a must read for those who want to learn about war and how it is wage. It is also superior to most of all the new books that have been published in the last five years.
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