Azar Gat (born 1959 in Haifa, Israel) is a researcher and author on military history, military strategy and war and peace in general. Along with Steven Pinker and others, Gat argues that war is in decline in today's world.
He is currently Ezer Weizman Professor of National Security and in his second term (first from 1999–2003) as Chair of the Department of Political Science at Tel Aviv University. He is the founder and head of the University's Executive Masters Program in Diplomacy and Security. Gat is also a Major in the Israeli Army.
He has been Alexander von Humboldt Fellow at the University of Freiburg, Germany; Fulbright Fellow at Yale University, USA; British Council Scholar at the University of Oxford, Great Britain; Visiting Fellow at the Mershon Center, Ohio State University, USA; Goldman Visiting Israeli Professor at Georgetown University, USA; and Koret Distinguished Visiting Fellow for Israel Studies at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, USA.
Azar Gat started his career focusing on military history and strategy, exemplified in his 1989 book The Origins of Military Thought from the Enlightenment to Clausewitz, a book frequently cited especially in relation to Carl von Clausewitz. Over the years he has broadened his scope to include causes, especially the prehistoric causes of war.
In conclusion, let us understand more closely the evolutionary calculus that can make the highly dangerous activity of fighting over resources worthwhile. In our societies of plenty, it might be difficult to comprehend how precarious people's subsistence in pre-modern societies was (and still is). The spectre of hunger and starvation always loomed over their heads. Affecting both mortality and reproduction (the latter through human sexual appetite and women's fertility), it constantly, in varying degrees, trimmed down their numbers, acting in combination with disease. Thus, struggle over resources was very often evolutionarily cost-effective.
In War in Human Civilization (2006) and following up in Victorious and Vulnerable: Why Democracy won in the 20th Century and How it is Still Imperiled, Gat argues that the world has been becoming steadily more peaceful for thousands of years. He finds that there are two major steps to this process. The first came with the emergence of the state: When populations entered into a social contract with the state, they gave up parts of their autonomy in return for the state taking care of their security. The second step came with modernization and the industrial revolution, which led to economic growth and interdependence and a corresponding increase in affluence and standard of living. It also brought with it liberal democracies and nuclear deterrence. Both these steps and all of these factors led to a reduction in wars and war casualties. In other words, peace has become profitable and therefore more common. At the same time, there are still countries less affected by this development, and war is more frequent in these parts of the world. In claiming that war is in decline, Gat aligns with Steven Pinker, Joshua Goldstein, and Robert Muchembled, who all argue the same although they identify different causal mechanisms behind the phenomena.
Gat's broad views on war and its links to culture and human nature are similar to those of Steven A. LeBlanc and Steven Pinker. He incorporates viewpoints from ethology, evolution, evolutionary psychology, anthropology, archaeology, history, historical sociology, and political science. See especially his seminal 2006 book War in Human Civilization. Another example is the paper "The Human Motivational Complex: Evolutionary Theory And The Causes Of Hunter-Gatherer Fighting.", blockquoted above and cited in "Evolutionary Psychology, Memes and the Origin of War".
Gat believes in the antiquity of the nations. In his view, ancient Egypt, Israel and classical Athens were national states.
- The Origins of Military Thought: From the Enlightenment to Clausewitz. Oxford University Press. 1989. p. 296. ISBN 978-0198229483.
- The Development of Military Thought: The Nineteenth Century. Oxford University Press. 1992. p. 288. ISBN 978-0198202462.
- Fascist and Liberal Visions of War: Fuller, Liddell Hart, Douhet, and Other Modernists. Oxford University Press. 1998. p. 352. ISBN 978-0198207153.
- British Armour Theory and the Rise of the Panzer Arm: Revising the Revisionists. Palgrave Macmillan. 2000. p. 140. ISBN 978-0312229528.
- Zeev Maoz, ed. (2001). War in a Changing World (3 ed.). University of Michigan Press. p. 240. ISBN 9780472111855.
- A History of Military Thought: From the Enlightenment to the Cold War. New York, NY: Oxford University Press. 2001. p. 890. ISBN 9780199247622.
- War in Human Civilization. New York: Oxford University Press. 2006. p. 848. ISBN 978-0199236633.
- Victorious and Vulnerable: Why Democracy Won in the 20th Century and How it is Still Imperiled. Stanford, CA: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. 2009. pp. 140. ISBN 978-1442201149.
- Nations: The Long History and Deep Roots of Political Ethnicity and Nationalism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 2013. p. 447. ISBN 978-1107400023.
- "Clausewitz and the Marxists: Yet Another Look". Journal of Contemporary History. 27 (2): 363–384. April 1992. doi:10.1177/002200949202700208.
- "The Hidden Sources of Liddell Hart's Strategic Ideas". War in History. 3 (3): 293–308. July 1996. doi:10.1177/096834459600300303.
- "The Democratic Peace Theory Reframed: The Impact of Modernity". World Politics. 58 (1): 73–100. October 2005. doi:10.1353/wp.2006.0017.
- "The Return of Authoritarian Great Powers". Foreign Affairs. 86 (4). July–August 2007.
- "So Why Do People Fight? Evolutionary Theory and the Causes of War". European Journal of International Relations. 15 (4): 571–599. December 2009. doi:10.1177/1354066109344661.
- "Is War Declining – And Why?". Journal of Peace Research. Published online before print. 21 December 2012. doi:10.1177/0022343312461023.
- Azar Gat's research while affiliated with Tel Aviv University and other places
- "International MA in Security and Diplomacy, Tel Aviv University". Retrieved 2020-10-10.
- (August 2013) Azar Gat
- Umut Ozkirimli, Theories of Nationalism: A Critical Introduction, Macmillan Education UK, 2017, pp. 71, 72 Makes references to A. Gat, Nations: The Long History and Deep Roots of Political Ethnicity and Nationalism, Cambridge University Press, 2013 .
- The Return of Authoritarian Capitalists, op-ed in NY Times, June 14, 2007
- Interview with Gat on "New Books in History"