Van Creveld redux

If you don’t usually peruse The National out of Abu Dhabi, you might have missed this story about the creation of a “private navy” to counter piracy along the shipping corridor between the Red and Arabian Seas:

Private navy planned to counter pirate raids

Can you believe that it’s been 21 years since Martin van Creveld published The Transformation of War? My.

Once the legal monopoly of armed force, long claimed by the state, is wrested out of its hands, existing distinctions between war and crime will break down (204)

Much of the day-to-day burden of defending society against the threat of low-intensity conflict will be transferred to the booming security business (207 — remember, this was 1991!)

He made several predictions about the future of the state, none of them encouraging. Here are a couple:

Any community able and, more importantly, willing to exert itself to protect its members will be able to call on those members’ loyalty (198)

Armies will be replaced by police-like security forces on the one hand and bands of ruffians on the other, not that the difference is always clear even today (225).

Perhaps most discouraging:

America’s current (1991) economic decline must be halted; or else one day the crime that is rampant in the streets of New York and Washington, D.C., may develop into low-intensity conflict by coalescing along racial, religious, social, and political lines, and run completely out of control (196).

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