Armies of Sand: The Past, Present, and Future of Arab Military Effectiveness (Hardcover)
Since the Second World War, Arab armed forces have consistently punched below their weight. They have lost many wars that by all rights they should have won, and in their best performances only ever achieved quite modest accomplishments. Over time, soldiers, scholars, and military experts have offered various explanations for this pattern. Reliance on Soviet military methods, the poor civil-military relations of the Arab world, the underdevelopment of the Arab states, and patterns of behavior derived from the wider Arab culture, have all been suggested as the ultimate source of Arab military difficulties. In Armies of Sand, Kenneth M. Pollack assesses these differing explanations and isolates the most important causes. Over the course of the book, he examines the combat performance of fifteen Arab armies and air forces in virtually every Middle Eastern war, from the Jordanians and Syrians in 1948 to Hizballah in 2006 and the Iraqis and ISIS in 2014-2017. The book ultimately concludes that reliance on Soviet doctrine was more of a help than a hindrance to the Arabs. In contrast, politicization and underdevelopment were both important factors limiting Arab military effectiveness, but patterns of behavior derived from the dominant Arab culture was the most important factor of all. Pollack closes with a discussion of the rapid changes occurring across the Arab world, and suggests that because both Arab society and warfare are changing, the problems that have bedeviled Arab armed forces in the past could dissipate or even vanish in the future, with potentially dramatic consequences for the Middle East military balance. Sweeping in its coverage, this will be the go-to reference for anyone interested in the history of warfare in the Middle East since 1945.
Kenneth M. Pollack was a longtime Senior Fellow of the Brookings Institution, where he ran the Saban Center for Middle East Policy, and is currently a Resident Scholar of the American Enterprise Institute.