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About Martin L. Van Creveld
Martin van Creveld is widely acknowledged as one of the world’s leading experts on military history and strategy. He is the author of 27 books, which between them have been published in 20 languages. The best known one is The Transformation of War, which back in 1991 predicted the ongoing shift from large-scale conventional warfare to insurgency and terrorism.
In addition to military affairs, van Creveld has written extensively about political history (The Rise and Decline of the State), Israel history, American history, and women’s history.
He lives near Jerusalem with his wife, Dvora Lewy.
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In vivid descriptions of key battles and campaigns—among others, Napoleon at Jena, Moltke’s Königgrätz campaign, the Arab–Israeli war of 1973, and the Americans in Vietnam—Martin van Creveld focuses on the means of command and shows how those means worked in practice. He finds that technological advances such as the railroad, breech-loading rifles, the telegraph and later the radio, tanks, and helicopters all brought commanders not only new tactical possibilities but also new limitations.
Although vast changes have occurred in military thinking and technology, the one constant has been an endless search for certainty—certainty about the state and intentions of the enemy’s forces; certainty about the manifold factors that together constitute the environment in which war is fought, from the weather and terrain to radioactivity and the presence of chemical warfare agents; and certainty about the state, intentions, and activities of one’s own forces. The book concludes that progress in command has usually been achieved less by employing more advanced technologies than by finding ways to transcend the limitations of existing ones.
However, the end of airpower's glorious age is drawing near. The conventional wisdom to the contrary, modern precision guided munitions have not made fighter bombers more effective against many kinds of targets than their predecessors in World War II. U.S. ground troops calling for air support in Iraq in 2003 did not receive it any faster than Allied forces did in France in 1944. And from its origins on, airpower has never been very effective against terrorists, guerrillas, and insurgents. As the warfare waged by these kinds of people grow in importance, and as ballistic missiles, satellites, cruise missiles and drones increasingly take the place of quarter-billion-dollar manned combat aircraft and their multi-million-dollar pilots, airpower is losing utility almost day by day.
For 200 years, military theory and strategy have been guided by the Clausewitzian assumption that war is rational - a reflection of national interest and an extension of politics by other means. However, van Creveld argues, the overwhelming pattern of conflict in the post-1945 world no longer yields fully to rational analysis. In fact, strategic planning based on such calculations is, and will continue to be, unrelated to current realities.
Small-scale military eruptions around the globe have demonstrated new forms of warfare with a different cast of characters - guerilla armies, terrorists, and bandits - pursuing diverse goals by violent means with the most primitive to the most sophisticated weapons. Although these warriors and their tactics testify to the end of conventional war as we've known it, the public and the military in the developed world continue to contemplate organized violence as conflict between the super powers.
At this moment, armed conflicts of the type van Creveld describes are occurring throughout the world. From Lebanon to Cambodia, from Sri Lanka and the Philippines to El Salvador, the Persian Gulf, and the strife-torn nations of Eastern Europe, violent confrontations confirm a new model of warfare in which tribal, ethnic, and religious factions do battle without high-tech weapons or state-supported armies and resources. This low-intensity conflict challenges existing distinctions between civilian and solder, individual crime and organized violence, terrorism and war. In the present global atmosphere, practices that for three centuries have been considered uncivilized, such as capturing civilians or even entire communities for ransom, have begun to reappear.
Pursuing bold and provocative paths of inquiry, van Creveld posits the inadequacies of our most basic ideas as to who fights wars and why and broaches the inevitability of man's need to "play" at war. In turn brilliant and infuriating, this challenge to our thinking and planning current and future military encounters is one of the most important books on war we are likely to read in our lifetime.
While paying close attention to the unpredictable human element, Martin van Creveld takes us on a journey from the last century’s clashes of massive armies to today’s short, high-tech, lopsided skirmishes and frustrating quagmires. Here is the world as it was in 1900, controlled by a handful of “great powers,” mostly European, with the memories of eighteenth-century wars still fresh. Armies were still led by officers riding on horses, messages conveyed by hand, drum, and bugle. As the telegraph, telephone, and radio revolutionized communications, big-gun battleships like the British Dreadnought, the tank, and the airplane altered warfare.
Van Creveld paints a powerful portrait of World War I, in which armies would be counted in the millions, casualties–such as those in the cataclysmic battle of the Marne–would become staggering, and deadly new weapons, such as poison gas, would be introduced. Ultimately, Germany’s plans to outmaneuver her enemies to victory came to naught as the battle lines ossified and the winners proved to be those who could produce the most weapons and provide the most soldiers.
The Changing Face of War then propels us to the even greater global carnage of World War II. Innovations in armored warfare and airpower, along with technological breakthroughs from radar to the atom bomb, transformed war from simple slaughter to a complex event requiring new expertise–all in the service of savagery, from Pearl Harbor to Dachau to Hiroshima. The further development of nuclear weapons during the Cold War shifts nations from fighting wars to deterring them: The number of active troops shrinks and the influence of the military declines as civilian think tanks set policy and volunteer forces “decouple” the idea of defense from the world of everyday people.
War today, van Crevald tells us, is a mix of the ancient and the advanced, as state-of-the-art armies fail to defeat small groups of crudely outfitted guerrilla and terrorists, a pattern that began with Britain’s exit from India and culminating in American misadventures in Vietnam and Iraq, examples of what the author calls a “long, almost unbroken record of failure.”
How to learn from the recent past to reshape the military for this new challenge–how to still save, in a sense, the free world–is the ultimate lesson of this big, bold, and cautionary work. The Changing Face of War is sure to become the standard source on this essential subject.
Martin van Creveld's Moshe Dayan tells the story of one man and of one people, to whom he was a figurehead - a symbol of their patriotism and their determination to survive. Born in a kibbutz in 1915, Dayan joined the Hagana when he was just fourteen, thus starting early a military career that saw him serve in every war fought in the Middle East from the War of Israeli Independence in 1948 to the Yom Kippur War of 1973. Twice he led his country's forces into smashing victories. Having planned and executed the one and directed the other, with his one eye he towers over them like Nelson over the Battle of Trafalgar.
Skilled in battle, skilled in diplomacy, like many powerful public figures, Moshe Dayan's private life was far from mundane. The book quotes from little-known sources, including an account written by one of his mistresses, that reveal much about his character and his life away from the battlefield. This is an honest portrayal of both the private and the public figure, which seeks to understand a man whose contribution to the state of Israel in its developing years was immeasurable.
The survival of every country, government, and individual is ultimately dependent on war - or the ability to wage it in self-defence. That is why, though it may come but once in a hundred years, it must be prepared for every day. When it is too late-when the bodies lie stiff and people weep over them-those in charge have failed in their duty.
Nevertheless, in spite of the centrality of war to human history and culture, there has for long been no modern attempt to provide a replacement for the classics on war and strategy, Sun Tzu's The Art of War, dating from the 5th or 6th century BC, and Carl von Clausewitz's On War, written in the aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars.
What is needed is a modern, comprehensive, easy to read and understand theory of war for the 21st century that could serve as a replacement for these classic texts. The purpose of the present book is to provide just such a theory.
The definitive one-volume history of Israel by its most distinguished historian
From its Zionist beginnings at the end of the nineteenth century through the past sixty, tumultuous years, the state of Israel has been, as van Creveld argues, "the greatest success story in the entire twentieth century." In this crisp volume, he skillfully relates the improbable story of a nationless people who, given a hot and arid patch of land and coping with every imaginable obstacle, founded a country that is now the envy of surrounding states. While most studies on Israel focus on the political, this encompassing history weaves together the nation's economic, social, cultural and religious narratives while also offering diplomatic solutions to help Israel achieve peace. Without question, this is the best one-volume history of Israel and its people.