Martin van Creveld

From Infogalactic: the planetary knowledge core
Jump to: navigation, search
Martin van Creveld
Martin van Creveld crop.jpg
at the House of Commons, London
(26 February 2008)
Born (1946-03-05) 5 March 1946 (age 75)
Rotterdam, Netherlands
Nationality Israeli
Fields Military history
Military theory
Alma mater London School of Economics
Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Martin Levi van Creveld (Hebrew: מרטין לוי ון קרפלד‎, [ˈmartin leˈvi van kreˈfeld], also spelled "van Krefeld" after the Hebrew transliteration; born 5 March 1946) is an Israeli military historian and theorist.

Life and career

Van Creveld was born in the Netherlands in the city of Rotterdam to a Jewish family. His parents, Leon and Margaret, were staunch Zionists who had managed to evade the Nazis during World War II. One of Creveld's uncles and several cousins were killed in the Holocaust.

In 1950, his family emigrated to Israel, and Creveld grew up in Ramat Gan, near Tel Aviv. He was drafted by the Israel Defense Forces and served in logistics, but was granted an early discharge for medical reasons. From 1964 to 1969, he studied history at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and earned an MA. From 1969–71, he studied history at the London School of Economics and received a PhD.[1] Van Creveld's doctoral dissertation on Hitler's strategy in the Balkans during the early years of World War II was published in 1973 by Cambridge University Press as Hitler's Strategy 1940-1941: the Balkan Clue.

After completing his PhD in 1971, van Creveld returned to Israel and began teaching at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He became a full professor in 1988. In 2007, he retired from teaching at Hebrew University, and began teaching at Tel Aviv University's Security Studies Program.[2]

Van Creveld has been married twice. He and his current wife, Dvora Lewy, have five children. He lives in Mevaseret Zion near Jerusalem.[1]


Van Creveld is the author of twenty-seven published books. His primary focus is military history and theory, the field of his doctoral studies. However, he has also written about a variety of other historical subjects, including the history of women, the history of Israel, the history of conscience, and the history of equality. His most important works are considered to be: Command in War (1985), Supplying War: Logistics from Wallenstein to Patton (1977, 2nd edition 2004), The Transformation of War (1991), The Sword and the Olive (1998) and The Rise and Decline of the State (1999). His books have been published in twenty languages.

Van Creveld has lectured or taught at many strategic institutes, military and civilian, on all five continents, including Quantico and the U.S. Naval War College.

Of particular significance is his 1991 book The Transformation of War (UK: On Future War), which has been translated into Arabic, Estonian, French, German, Greek, Japanese, Russian, Serb and Spanish. In this treatise of military theory, van Creveld develops what he calls the non-trinitarian theory of warfare, which he juxtaposes with the famous work by Clausewitz, On War.[3]

Clausewitz's trinitarian model of war (a term of van Creveld's) distinguishes between the affairs of the population, the army, and the government.[4] Van Creveld criticizes this philosophy as too narrow and state-focused, which makes it inapplicable to the study of conflicts involving one or more non-state actors. Instead, he proposes five key issues of war:

  1. By whom war is fought – whether by states or by non-state actors
  2. What is war all about – the relationships between the actors, and between them and the non-combatants
  3. How war is fought – issues of strategy and tactics
  4. What war is fought for – whether to enhance national power, or as an end to itself
  5. Why war is fought – the motivations of the individual soldier.

Van Creveld notes that many of the wars fought after 1945 were low-intensity conflicts (LICs) which powerful states ended up losing. The book argues that the world is witnessing the decline of the nation-state without a comparable decline in organized violence. Moreover, in his view, many armed forces still train and prepare to fight a conventional war, rather than the low-intensity-conflicts they are likely to face. Consequently, it is imperative that nation states modify the training of their armed forces and rethink their weapon procurement programs.

The book's significance is attested to by the fact that it has been included on the list of required reading for United States Army officers, and (with Sun Tzu and Clausewitz) only the third non-American entry on the list.[5] Van Creveld's Supplying War: Logistics from Wallenstein to Patton is now included on the U.S. Army's required reading list as well.

Van Creveld also made popular the term "directed telescope" to describe the use of specially selected and trusted officers as special agents or observers for the commander who is seeking certainty regarding battlefield information.[6][7]

In addition to writing about military history and strategy, van Creveld has written several book on social issues, including The Privileged Sex, which argues that the idea women are the oppressed gender is largely a myth, and that women, and not men, are the privileged gender.[8] He has also written histories of the concepts of conscience and equality.

In 2017 Van Creveld released his debut novel Hitler in Hell, a darkly humorous historical novel featuring Adolf Hitler's defense of his life and actions against his critics.[9]

Views on current affairs

In addition to writing on military history, van Creveld also comments, often pointedly, on contemporary societies and politics.

In a TV interview in 2002, he expressed doubts as to the ability of the Israeli army to defeat the Palestinians:

They [Israeli soldiers] are very brave people... they are idealists... they want to serve their country and they want to prove themselves. The problem is that you cannot prove yourself against someone who is much weaker than yourself. They are in a lose-lose situation. If you are strong and fighting the weak, then if you kill your opponent then you are a scoundrel... if you let him kill you, then you are an idiot. So here is a dilemma which others have suffered before us, and for which as far as I can see there is simply no escape. Now the Israeli army has not by any means been the worst of the lot. It has not done what for instance the Americans did in Vietnam... it did not use napalm, it did not kill millions of people. So everything is relative, but by definition, to return to what I said earlier, if you are strong and you are fighting the weak, then anything you do is criminal.[10]

In a September 2003 interview in Elsevier, a Dutch weekly, on Israel and the dangers it faces from Iran, the Palestinians and world opinion van Creveld stated:

We possess several hundred atomic warheads and rockets and can launch them at targets in all directions, perhaps even at Rome. Most European capitals are targets for our air force…. We have the capability to take the world down with us. And I can assure you that that will happen before Israel goes under.[11]

In the 21 August 2004 edition of the International Herald Tribune van Creveld wrote, "Had the Iranians not tried to build nuclear weapons, they would be crazy."[12]

In 2005, van Creveld made headlines when he said in an interview that the 2003 invasion of Iraq was "the most foolish war since Emperor Augustus in 9 BC [sic] sent his legions into Germany and lost them", a reference to the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest. His analysis included harsh criticism of the Bush Administration, comparing the war to the Vietnam war. Moreover, he said that "Bush deserves to be impeached and, once he has been removed from office, put on trial." [5]

In 2007, van Creveld commented on the results of the U.S. invasion of Iraq and concluded that the real victor was Iran.

Iran is the real victor in Iraq, and the world must now learn to live with a nuclear Iran the way we learned to live with a nuclear Soviet Union and a nuclear China.... We Israelis have what it takes to deter an Iranian attack. We are in no danger at all of having an Iranian nuclear weapon dropped on us.... thanks to the Iranian threat, we are getting weapons from the U.S. and Germany.[13]

Van Creveld viewed the Second Lebanon War as a strategic success for Israel and a Hezbollah defeat. He was also highly critical of the Winograd Commission's report for its failure to note the many successes brought about by Israel’s military campaign. He noted that Hezbollah "had the fight knocked out of it," lost hundreds of its members and that the organization was "thrown out of South Lebanon," replaced by "a fairly robust United Nations peacekeeping force." He also noted that as a result of the war, Israel is experiencing a level of calm on its Lebanon border not seen since the mid-1960s.[14] More recently, in an article published in Infinity Journal in June 2011, titled "The Second Lebanon War: A Reassessment", Martin van Creveld argued that contrary to the common view, and despite "clumsy, heavy-handed, and slow" ground operations, the Second Lebanon War was a great victory for Israel. He states that as a result of the war, "since the middle of August 2006, all over southern Lebanon hardly a shot has been fired."[15]

In an opinion piece published in The Jewish Daily Forward in 2010, van Creveld argued that the West Bank, far from being vital to Israel's security, is a territory "that Israel can easily afford to give up." Van Creveld contended that the West Bank offers no defense against ballistic missiles from Israel's two chief enemies, Iran and Syria. Furthermore, provided that it would be demilitarized in any future peace settlement with the Palestinians, the West Bank would act as a natural barrier impeding the advance of any army endeavoring to invade Israel by land from the east. Lastly, Israel could defend itself against terrorism from the West Bank by means of a wall coupled with offensive campaigns the likes of Operation Cast Lead and the Second Lebanon War, which successfully restored Israel's deterrence factor when the level of terrorism exceeded what Israel was willing to tolerate.[16] Stephen Kramer, Israel Correspondent for the Jewish Times of South Jersey, disputed the accuracy and relevance of figures cited by van Creveld in relation to Israel's GDP and arms exports. Kramer, who lives in the Samarian settlement of Alfei Menashe, also argued that the Israeli army plays a crucial role fighting terrorism in the West Bank, whereas its absence could precipitate a Hamas "takeover" similar to the one that occurred in the wake of Israel's withdrawal from Gaza in 2005.[17] [Hamas won the democratic Palestinian election of 2006]

In an article co-authored with Cambridge researcher of Middle Eastern history[18] Jason Pack addressing the 2011 Libyan civil war, van Creveld challenged the media's tendency to portray the circumstances in Libya as being largely equivalent to those that formed the backdrop to the overthrow of ben-Ali in Tunisia and Mubarak in Egypt earlier in the year. "The remarkable spread of the 2011 Arab revolts across the face of North Africa causes many journalists to portray the current Libyan uprising as fueled by similar factors to those at play in neighboring Tunisia and Egypt. There are more differences than similarities." Van Creveld noted that Tunisia and Egypt "have been coherent nation-states for well over a century," while Libyan society is still pervasively tribalist. He also observed that whereas the armies of Tunisia and Egypt could mediate the transitions between the old regimes and the new, "Libya lacks a professional, non-tribal army" that could function in such a role. Van Creveld blamed Gaddafi's son Saif al-Islam Gaddafi for squandering a crucial opportunity to restore order to the country and confidence – both domestic and international – in the Gaddafi regime.[19]

Van Creveld has stated that the Israeli government has "vastly exaggerated the threat that a nuclear Iran poses to its security, as well as Israel's capacity to halt it."[20]

Published works


  • Hitler's Strategy 1940-1941: the Balkan Clue, Cambridge University Press, 1973, ISBN 0-521-20143-8
  • Military Lessons of the Yom Kippur War: Historical Perspectives, Beverly Hills : Sage Publications, 1975, ISBN 0-8039-0562-9
  • Supplying War: Logistics from Wallenstein to Patton, Cambridge University Press, 1977, ISBN 0-521-21730-X (2nd ed, 2004, ISBN 0-521-54657-5)
  • Fighting Power: German and US Army performance, 1939-1945, Westport, Conn. : Greenwood Press, 1982, ISBN 0-313-23333-0
  • Command in War, Cambridge, Mass. : Harvard University Press, 1985, ISBN 0-674-14440-6
  • Technology and War: From 2000 B.C. to the Present, New York : Free Press, 1989, ISBN 0-02-933151-X (free paperback, 2001, ISBN 0-02-933153-6)
  • The Training of Officers: From Military Professionalism to Irrelevance, New York : Free Press, 1990, ISBN 0-02-933152-8
  • The Transformation of War, New York : Free Press, 1991, ISBN 0-02-933155-2
  • Nuclear Proliferation and the Future of Conflict, New York : Free Press, 1993, ISBN 0-02-933156-0
  • Air Power and Maneuver Warfare, with contributions from Kenneth S. Brower and Steven L. Canby, Alabama : Air University Press, 1994, ISBN 1-58566-050-7
  • The Encyclopedia of Revolutions and Revolutionaries: From Anarchism to Zhou Enlai, New York : Facts on File, 1996, ISBN 0-8160-3236-X
  • The Sword and the Olive: A Critical History of the Israeli Defense Force, New York : Public Affairs, 1998, ISBN 1-891620-05-3
  • The Rise and Decline of the State, Cambridge University Press, 1999, ISBN 0-521-65629-X
  • The Art of War: War and Military Thought, London : Cassell, 2000, ISBN 0-304-35264-0 (also New York : Collins/Smithsonian, 2005, ISBN 0-06-083853-1)
  • Men, Women, and War, London : Cassell & Co., 2001, ISBN 0-304-35959-9
  • Moshe Dayan, London : Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2004 ISBN 0-297-84669-8
  • Defending Israel: A Controversial Plan Toward Peace, New York : Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Press, 2004, ISBN 0-312-32866-4
  • Countering Modern Terrorism: History, Current Issues, and Future Threats : Proceedings of the Second International Security Conference, Berlin, 15–17 December 2004, with Katharina von Knop and Heinrich Neisser, Bielefeld : Wbv, W. Bertelsmann Verlag, 2005, ISBN 3-7639-3309-3
  • The Changing Face of War: lessons of combat, from the Marne to Iraq, New York : Presidio Press, 2006, ISBN 978-0-89141-901-3
  • The Culture of War, New York: Presidio Press, 2008, ISBN 978-0-345-50540-8
  • The American Riddle (In Russian), Publisher: Irisen (Russia) 2008[21]
  • The Land of Blood and Honey, New York : St. Martin's Press, 2010, ISBN 978-0-312-59678-1
  • The Age of Airpower, New York: Public Affairs, 2011, ISBN 978-1-58648-981-6
  • The Privileged Sex, North Charleston, SC : CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (On-Demand Publishing LLC), 2013, ISBN 978-1484983126
  • Wargames: From Gladiators to Gigabytes, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2013, ISBN 978-1-107-03695-6
  • Conscience: A Biography, London, Reaktion, 2015, ISBN 978-1-78023-454-0
  • Equality: The Impossible Quest, Kouvola, Castalia House, 2015.
  • A History of Strategy: From Sun Tzu to William S. Lind, Kouvola, Castalia House, 2015.
  • Pussycats: Why the Rest Keeps Beating the West—and What Can Be Done about It, CreateSpace, 2016.
  • Clio & Me: An Intellectual Biography, Kouvola, Castalia House, 2016.
  • Hitler in Hell, Kouvola, Castalia House, 2017

Selected articles



  1. 1.0 1.1 "Military Martin Strives for a Stronger Israel". Jewish Telegraph. 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. "Prof. Martin Van Creveld" Tel Aviv University website
  3. Major K. M. French United States Marine Corps, "Clausewitz vs. the Scholar: Martin Van Creveld's Expanded Theory Of War".
  4. von Clausewitz, Carl. On War (1832–35). Book 1, Chapter 1, Paragraph 28.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Brian Whitaker, "Nowhere to run", 29 November, The Guardian, 2005
  6. "Directed Telescope". Retrieved 17 February 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. Greene, Robert (2010). The 33 Strategies Of War. Profile Books. p. 65. ISBN 978-1-84765-142-6. what the military historian Martin van Creveld calls "a directed telescope": people in various parts of the chain [of command], and elsewhere, to give you instant information from the battlefield."<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. The Privileged Sex
  9. Hitler in Hell
  10. Jennifer Byrne, "Interview with Martin van Creveld" March 20, ABC, 2002
  11. Quoted in The Observer Guardian, The War Game, a controversial view of the current crisis in the Middle East, 21 September 2003; the original interview appeared in the Dutch weekly magazine: Elsevier, 2002, no. 17, p. 52-53 (April 27th, 2002).
  12. Martin van Creveld writes in the International Herald Tribune, "Sharon on the Warpath: Is Israel planning to attack Iran?"
  13. UPI, COMMENTARY: ISLAMIC DEJA VU analysis of Islam in the Middle East May 21, 2007
  14. "Israel's War With Hezbollah Was Not A Failure". Retrieved 17 February 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  15. "The Second Lebanon War: A Reassessment", June 2011, Infinity Journal, 2011
  16. van Creveld, Martin (15 December 2010). "Israel Doesn't Need the West Bank To Be Secure". The Jewish Daily Forward. Retrieved 25 February 2011. Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |publisher= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  17. Kramer, Stephen (4 February 2011). "Israel Needs the West Bank to be Secure". Jewish Times of South Jersey. Retrieved 25 February 2011. Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |publisher= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  18. "Jason Pack: Cambridge University, Researcher of Middle Eastern History and, President" on the Tony Blair Faith Foundation website
  19. van Creveld, Martin; Pack, Jason (23 February 2011). "Upheaval in Qaddafi's Libya isn't just another Arab uprising". Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved 25 February 2011. Arguably, the decisive event that forever modified the dynamics was a speech by Qaddafi's son, Saif al-Islam Qaddafi, broadcast late on Feb. 21 on Libyan national TV. Mr. Islam might have rolled out new reforms, blamed the reactionary conservatives like Prime Minister Baghdadi al-Mahmudi for the situation in the country, and promised that he would use his weight with his father to stop the violence against the protesters. Instead, he played the Mubarak card – if you don’t stick with me, you'll get Islamism, separatism, Western intervention, and total chaos.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  20. Martin van Creveld; Jason Pack (14 March 2012). "Hands On Syria, Hands Off Iran". Project Syndicate. Retrieved 15 March 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  21. (21 January 2009).

External links