A respected scholar of military history and an expert on strategy, Martin van Creveld recently explored the modern world’s shifting method of combat in The Changing Face of War. Now, in The Culture of War, he argues that there is much more to war than just soldiers killing one another for whatever reason. War has always been a topic of deep intrigue. Fighting itself can be a source of great, perhaps even the greatest, joy; out of this joy and fascination an entire culture has grown - from the war paint of tribal warriors to today’s "tiger suits," from Julius Caesar's red cloak to Douglas MacArthur's pipe, from the decorative shields of ancient Greece to modern aircraft nose art, and from the invention of chess around A.D. 600 to cyber era combat simulators. The culture of war has had its own traditions, laws, rituals, music, art, literature, and monuments since the beginning of civilization. Through the ages, the culture of war has usually been highly esteemed. Not so in today's advanced countries, which tend either to mock it ("Military intelligence is to intelligence what military music is to music") or to denounce it as "militaristic." This provocative book, the first of its kind, sets out to show how wrongheaded, and even dangerous, such attitudes are. The Culture of War argues that men and women today, contrary to the hopes of some, are just as fascinated by war as they have been in the past. A military that has lost touch with the culture of war is doomed not merely to defeat but to disintegration. Innovative, authoritative, and riveting, The Culture of War is a major work by one of the world's greatest and most insightful military historians.
©2008 Martin van Creveld (P)2010 Tantor
"In a tour de force of scholarship and insight, [van Creveld] takes [listeners] through the processes of preparing for, waging and commemorating war." (Publishers Weekly)
I'm a bartender, and much of my worldview comes from listening to a wide diversity of people over many years in a dozen countries.
This book has a straight-forward and historically supportable thesis: men like war. They enjoy the whole show: the uniforms, the marching, the music, the killing, the games. Martin van Creveld does a fine job exploring many of these areas, often surprising the reader with some fascinating historical detail. He moves around the world seeking evidence, and is often very convincing, except for his strange apologia for the Serbs in the 1990s—how odd that the words “ethnic cleansing” do not appear in that discussion. But van Creveld tilts at a straw woman: feminists. He is convinced that women, who apparently desire to enter the military in great numbers pose a danger not just to the culture of war but to national security itself. Women must remain content with their traditional relation to the military as cheerleaders, breeders of soldiers, and prizes; they will utterly destroy the ability of any country to defend itself if allowed to serve. He is like a boy insisting that no girls are allowed in the tree-fort. I am not making it up; so important is it to van Creveld that women be kept out of the military, that he devotes the last chapter of his book to what he sees as the greatest threat to military preparedness: women. It is little wonder that women continue to show little interest in such a hostile field as military history.
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