Martin van Creveld on War (and Dating)

One of my teachers, a former chief of Israeli military intelligence, used to say that going to war is not like asking a girl out on a date. It is a very serious decision, to be made on the basis of carefully crafted answers to even more carefully crafted questions.

A doubly important article from Martin van Creveld — chiefly about bombing Iran, but with some useful dating advice on the side.

Creveld's Rise and Decline of the State is something a classic and well worth picking up, though I find Creveld better on the differences between the modern state and older forms of political organization than on the supposed decline of state now underway. The state is certainly changing, and new transnational and sub-national institutions and habits are growing, but taxes, bureaucracy, police powers, and, in the U.S. at least, militarism are still at historically extraordinary levels, and even with the rise of the European Union and international trade organizations, most of those powers still reside — both immediately and ultimately — with the state.

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One thought on “Martin van Creveld on War (and Dating)

  1. Daniel Larison April 20, 2006 / 3:12 pm

    Prof. van Creveld is very sharp and right again as usual. It is gratifying to know that someone of his learning in military affairs comes to the same common sense conclusions that I and many others have: proliferation is not necessarily the worst thing that can happen. I don’t agree that we will have to serve as the Gulf’s protector from Iran (but then I didn’t agree that we should be protecting it from Iraq, either). The “pessimist” scenario is that Iranian proliferation will spark more proliferation, which is certainly possible and probably to our advantage.

    It seems to me vitally important that Prof. van Creveld, someone who is genuinely in the know about Near Eastern military matters, doesn’t buy the claim that the Iranians are anywhere near having a nuke. That means, as he suggests, that we are working from shoddy intel work or lies (again). So the question remains: why is any sane person even considering the option of bombing? It has to be purely ideological. Rational calculations cannot get you to that conclusion.

    In a sense, though, attacking Iran might be a bit like asking a girl out–the triumph of hope over experience!

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