Review: The Rise and Decline of the State

5 Star, Executive (Partisan Failure, Reform), Insurgency & Revolution, Military & Pentagon Power, Public Administration, War & Face of Battle
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5.0 out of 5 stars Historical Pessimism Absent Recommendations for Change,

November 12, 2001
Martin van Creveld
Anything Martin van Crevald writes is a five, and this book, although over-priced (…), is as as good as history can get. His notes are world-class, including a highly relevant note in the final chapter, to wit, that according to Soviet General Lebed’s 1997 public statement that, “out of 100 suitcase-sized nuclear bombs manufactured for the Soviet Union’s special forces, two-thirds could no longer be accounted for.”To begin with, Van Crevald damns the state for its consistent increase of taxes and its decrease in public services. The state has become, in a word, incompetent and archaic–its grossly over-funded militaries are increasingly helpless in the face of covert and guerrilla violence, at the same time that states are spending more and more on police forces and less and less on a rapidly growing politically deprived disenfranchised underclass.

He ends, as a historical purist, without making recommendations for change. Indeed, he quotes Mao Tse Tung, “The sun will keep rising, trees with keep growing, and women will keep having children.”

In many ways Van Crevald’s book serves as a capstone to the fifty or so books I have reviewed in the past year, most of them about strategy, threat, intelligence, and the so-called revolution in military affairs, for what I take from this work is that the state does have an extremely important role to play in assuring the common security and prosperity of the people, and we abandon the state at our own peril.

Every nation, but especially the most prosperous nations that have allowed virtually out of control immigration and set no real standards for citizenship, must very carefully examine its policies and premises, both with regard to what constitutes citizenship and loyalty, and what services it must offer to preserve and protect the commonwealth.

I am told that the FBI was prevented from searching the homes of several of the suspects in the weeks prior to the 11 September attacks, because we have granted to our visitors–illegal as well as legal–all those rights that might better be reserved for proven citizens. Van Crevald’s work is not, as some might take it, the death knell for the state, but rather the bath of cold water for the statesmen–and for those citizens who care to instruct their politicians on our demand for renewed focus on resurrecting the connection between citizenship, taxation, representation, and security.