Arabs at War

Military Effectiveness, 1948–1991

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Foreign policy analyses written by CFR fellows and published by the trade presses, academic presses, or the Council on Foreign Relations Press.

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Middle East and North Africa

Wars and Conflict

In Arabs at War, Council Senior Fellow Kenneth Pollack delivers the first-ever unclassified record of the post-World War II military histories of six key Arab states: Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Libya, Saudi Arabia, and Syria. This insightful overview of the modern Arab approach to warfare provides a comprehensive understanding of the military capabilities and limitations of the Arab states, some of which are the United States' most important allies, while others may likely be future adversaries.

Pollack focuses on the Arab armies, illuminating the persistent problems they have encountered on the battlefield. He shows in detail how each Arab military learned from its experiences and responded to the specific objectives set for it, often in the face of constrained political, economic, and social circumstances. His analysis reveals that Arab militaries' main weaknesses—tactical leadership, information management, and technical skills—leave them ill-prepared for an age of warfare that rewards decentralized command, innovative tactical leadership, accurate information, and advanced weaponry.

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Reviews and Endorsements

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.

Library Journal

A frank and statistically based historical assessment of Iraq's performance in war, along with the performances of Egypt, Jordan, Libya, Saudi 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 .... and focusing on everything from preparedness to unit cohesion.

Publishers Weekly

Ken Pollack's critical analysis of the Arab military is comprehensive and illuminating. A masterful, much needed, and timely work of practical scholarship.

Lt. Gen. Bernard E. Trainor, USMC (Ret.) Senior Fellow, Council on Foreign Relations

An important reference for anyone working on the history of the Middle East, regional security studies, and military and arms control analysis.

Anthony H. Cordesman, author of Peace and War: The Arab-Israeli Military Balance Enters the 21st Century

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