Armies of Sand: The Past, Present, and Future of Arab Military Effectiveness

ISBN : 9780197524640

Kenneth Pollack
696 ページ
156 x 235 mm

Winner of 2019 CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title

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.


Introduction: The Six-Day War and the Mystery of Arab Military Ineffectiveness
1. Pattens of Arab Military Performance
Part I: Soviet Doctrine
2. The Soviet Way of War
3. Arab Militaries and Soviet Doctrine
4. North Korea, Cuba, and Soviet Doctrine
Part II: Politicization
5. Politicization
6. Arab Militaries and Politicization: Egypt
7. Arab Militaries and Politicization: Iraq
8. Politicization and the South Vietnamese Armed Forces
9. Politicization and the Argentine Armed Forces
Part III: Underdevelopment
10. Economic Development and Military Effectiveness
11. Economic Development and Syrian Military Effectiveness
12. Economic Development and the Libya-Chad Wars
13. Economic Development and Chinese Military Effectiveness
14. Economic Development and Arab Military Effectiveness
Part IV: Culture
15. War and Culture
16. Arab Culture as an Explanation for Military Ineffectiveness
17. Aab Culture: Patterns and Predilections
18. Arab Culture and Arab Military Effectiveness
19. Arab Culture and Civilian Organizations
20. Culture and Education: The Causal Link
21. Arab Military Training Methods
22. Exceptional Arab Militaries: State Armed Forces
23. Exceptional Arab Militaries: Nonstate Armies
Conclusions: The Past, Present, and Future of Arab Military Effectiveness
Selected Bibliography


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.