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Arabs at War: Military Effectiveness, 1948-1991 (Studies in War, Society, and the Military) Paperback – September 1, 2004

4.6 out of 5 stars 26 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

As the U.S. rather publicly contemplates a strike against Iraq, Kenneth M. Pollack, the Council on Foreign Relations' deputy director for National Security Studies, offers a frank and statistically based historical assessment of Iraq's performance in war, along with the performances of Egypt, Jordan, Libya, Audi Arabia and Syria. Arabs at War: Military Effectiveness, 1948-1991 begins with the first of Egypt's engagements with Israel, and ends with the Gulf War, devoting a chapter each to the aforementioned nations (Iraq gets more than 100 pages), and focusing on everything from preparedness to unit cohesion. While it is often more technical than most readers will want, expect journalists to be combing the book (which includes 36 maps) in search of backstory.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

In the March/April 2002 issue of Foreign Affairs, Pollack, who is deputy director of National Security Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, bluntly addressed what should be done once the al Qaeda has been dealt with: "The United States should invade Iraq, eliminate the present regime, and pave the way for a successor prepared to abide by its international commitments and live in peace with its neighbors." This forthrightness is evident throughout Pollack's significant albeit highly specialized military history of the tactical and strategic performance of six key Arab states Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Libya, Saudi Arabia, and Syria during the post-World War II era. Each broad analysis covers the strategies and goals of both the various militaries and their adversaries to provide a full political context. Pollack achieves the dual purpose of analyzing the factors that have consistently hindered these armed forces and providing a robust assessment of their strengths and weaknesses during various battles. Since the experiences of these forces continue to shape military action around the world, this important overview belongs in all military research libraries and larger university libraries. Dale Farris, Groves, TX
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Series: Studies in War, Society, and the Military
  • Paperback: 717 pages
  • Publisher: Bison Books (September 1, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0803287836
  • ISBN-13: 978-0803287839
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.4 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #197,566 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
The main thesis of Pollack's book is that the Arab armies lose wars because of the low quality of the junior officer corps. The first army that Pollack evaluates is the Egyptian army from 1948-1991. Pollack states the main reason for the severe defeat suffered by the Egyptians in 1967 was due to the poor quality of lower ranking officers. These Egyptian lieutenants, majors, and colonels failed to react to Israeli manuevers or look for routes of escape. However Pollack praises the Egyptian high command's decision to move forces closer to the Israeli border because if they waited behind defensive works, the Egyptian army would have been outmaneuvered by the Israelis. When planning for the 1973 war the Egyptian high command planned every detail of the lower officers moves for the upcoming offensive. The end result was that the Egyptian army was suuccesful in the opening phases of the offensive but faced defeat in the unplanned later phases of the conflict.Pollack thinks that the Egyptian high command made the right move in staying in the Northern Sinai and not retreating because the Egyptian army lacked the maneuver skills to implement the later option. The second that Pollack details is the Iraqi army that faced problems similiar to the Egyptian army. In the opening phases of the Iran-Iraq the Iraqi army was outmaneuvered by Iranin forces because of the medicore qaulity of the Iraqi forces. The Iraqi high command compensated for this weakness by carefully planning every operation in minute detail. This soon led to the later Iraqi victories against the Iranians although the Iraqi junior officers still suffered from poor intiative.Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover
The Middle East has been, regrettably, one of the most active "laboratories" of war-fighting since WWII. The lessons learned from the numerous conflicts there have had tremendous influence on the development of the concepts of maneuver warfare which are so central to current Western military doctrine. The success of that developmental process has been manifestly evident in the Coalition (essentially U.S.)-Iraqi conflicts of 1991 and 2003. Pollack's book, which is well-summarized by the other reviewers, is a fairly technical survey of the course of each of the individual Middle-East conflicts, with an eye towards elucidating the causes for the defeats of the Arab militaries in each of those wars. His analytic style will be familiar to those who have read his other, more politically charged, book, The Threatening Storm. He proposes hypotheses for Arab military ineffectiveness in his introduction, and then proceeds to evaluate the degree to which performance of each country in each conflict supports or refutes each of those hypotheses. It is a very logical, detailed method of argument which has an aura of inevitability in its conclusions. However, some in the general readership may find it a bit dry. There are few anecdotes of small unit action to liven up the narrative, which reads more like a War College document than a popular history.
The conclusions have also been summarized by the other reviewers. As I see it, Pollack proposes that Arab military ineffectiveness stems mainly from an inability of smaller units, either on land or in the air, to engage in the free-flowing maneuver and combined-arms co-ordination required for tactical success on the modern battlefield.
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Format: Paperback
Egypt, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria, and Iraq are six major players in the Middle East. Whether they are US allies (such as Saudi Arabia or Jordan) or die hard enemies (such as Syria or Libya) Pollack gives an objective analysis of their military prowess, or lack there of.

Pollack's argument is twofold. He claims that because of Arab society Arab militaries lack basic skills that modern European armies take for granted. For instance because Arab culture looks down upon those who preform physical labor nations like Saudi Arabia wouldn't teach maitenance skills for rifles and aircraft. As a result Saudi Arabia still rely on foriegn advisors. Pollack notes that "Saudis also were limited in the fact that very few of their people were willing to take on a job that they considered menial labor-hence the support services suffered." (pg. 431)

The second portion of his thesis is that the junior officer corps of most Arab armies is incredibly poor. Considered having one of the finest armies in the Middle East, Jordan showed that on a tactical level it simply could not preform. While most Western militaries have based their soldiers tactics off of the old WW2 German saying "every corporal should carry a field marshalls baton." Arab countries such as the Hashemite Kingdom have good generals but poor lower level leadership. This was evident when Pollack states (talking about the battle of al Karamah), "The artillery was accurate but almost exclusively preplanned, preregistered fire missions and, therefore, did not demonstrate any real improvement over 1967. Whenever Jordanian armor encountered Israeli armor-and these were mostly even fights in both numbers and types of tanks engaged-the Jordanians either lost or, at best gained a draw which still favored the Israelis."(pg.
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