Monday, June 27, 2011

Martin van Creveld: Keepin' it real

Over the weekend, SWJ ran an interview of Martin van Creveld (pdf) on the subject of his new book: airpower (including its often unmentioned limitations). His response to a question about "ugly victory" was particularly outstanding, and reminds us that even the "cleanest" victory in war is still ugly.
I am not sure what an "ugly victory" means. After all, what we are talking about is war; the most terrible activity known to men, in which people are deliberately perforated by bullets, crushed by overpressure generated by shells and bombs, shredded by flying metal fragments, buried alive under debris, burnt to cinders, asphyxiated (when chemical weapons are employed) and killed and wounded in a whole variety of other interesting ways.
I try always to stay aware of the horrific atrocity at the root of everything we talk about here, but it's good to be reminded. "The most terrible activity known to men." Don't forget that.

In a related story, today is National PTSD Awareness Day. Check out the link for the Veterans' Administration's list of ten ways to help increase awareness, and have a look at this eight-page pdf called "understanding PTSD."


  1. If one functions under the assumptions of the laws of war, then the participants are willing.

    A number of human activities of equal or worse horror, from the atrocities of The Holocaust, to the Khmer Rouge, etc., have been intentionally perpretrated against non-combatants.

    van Creveld may be afflicted with a classic case of 'where you sit is where you stand.'

  2. If one functions under the assumptions of the laws of war, then the participants are willing.

    How much of what falls under the rubric "war" actually is constrained by the laws of war?

    MVC says "war is the most terrible activity known to men," you say the most terrible activities known to men are perpetrated on non-combatants, and I say you're both right.

  3. Technically, we haven't used asphyxiating agents in chemical warfare since World War I. But I suppose using the term "causing extreme nerve synapse overload" doesn't have the same ring of self-righteousness.


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