I am reading Martin van Creveld’s new book, The Culture of War. After a quick first pass, this is clearly right up there with the greatest of his 18 books, Transformation of War and Rise and Decline of the State. Van Creveld is easily in the very top rank of modern historians, and will be one of the few military theoreticians read by future generations (their work seldom ages well).
To over-simplify, most works about the arts and social sciences fall into one of three categories.
- Helps us understand the past, how we got to where we are today.
- Helps us understand today’s events.
- Helps us understand the trend of events, where we are going.
Some books do two of these things. A very few do all three, seamlessly integrating and understanding of the past to show us the future. I find that van Creveld’s books are the essential guide to reading the newspaper — sorting out the important from the dross, and putting today’s events in a wider context. Without works like these the news stream becomes a blur of sensation — fear, euphoria, happy, sad.
If insights had tangible weight, Amazon could deliver this to you only with a semi and crane.
Reviews of Culture of War
- Victor David Hansen in the New York Sun
- William Lind, posted at Defense and the National Interest
- William Lind, published by UPI
About Martin van Creveld
The central role of Professor van Creveld’s work in the development of 4GW theory is difficult to exaggerate. He has provided both the broad historical context — looking both forward and back in time — much of the analytical work, and a large share of the real work in publishing both academic and general interest books. He does not use the term 4GW, preferring to speak of “non-trinitarian” warfare — but his work is foundational for 4GW just the same.
Professor van Creveld has written about almost every significant aspect of war — technology, logistics, air power and maneuver warfare, the training of officers, the role of women in combat, military history (several books), nuclear proliferation, and strategy (several books). He has written about the future of war – The Transformation of War (which I consider the best work to date about modern war) and The Changing Face of War. Then there is his magnum opus, The Rise and Decline of the State – the ur-text describing the political order of the 21st century.
A solution to 4GW – the introduction the first of my series attempting to integrate 4GW theory into the wider (and better-founded) context of van Creveld’s theories about the decline of the state and non-trinitiarian warfare. 4GW theory has grown weaker and less useful to the extent it was diverged from van Creveld’s views, IMO.
If you are new to this site, please glance at the archives below. You may find answers to your questions in these, such as the causes of the present crisis. I have been writing about these events for several years; since November 2007 on this site. As you will see explained in these posts, the magnitude of the events now happening is beyond what most Americans have — or can — imagine.
Please share your comments by posting below. Please make them brief (250 words max), civil, and relevant to this post. Or email me at fabmaximus at hotmail dot com (note the spam-protected spelling).
For other posts about this topic
- For my earlier thoughts about this book see Valuable new insights about the culture of war… a preview.
- For links to all (or most) of van Creveld’s online works, see the FM reference page The Essential 4GW reading list: Martin van Creveld. Here is his website.
- For posts discussing van Creveld’s work in the larger context, see Military, political, and strategic theory.
1 thought on “A history book to help us better understand our rapidly changing world”
I had a chance to read an advance copy of The Culture of War in the spring of this year.
I agree that this is one of his best works, and rounds out the holy trinity of his works – you have identified the other two.
The Transformation of War, The Rise and Decline of the State and The Culture of War are all “must read” in order to understand the past and present. Whether of not he is on the road to predicting the future correctly is unknown, but I would not bet against him.