Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Required reading: "Arabs at War: Military Effectiveness, 1948-1991"

Anyone surprised by the failure of Iraqi Army units to stand and fight to defend the city of Ramadi would do well to read Kenneth M. Pollack's Arabs at War: Military Effectiveness 1948-1991. Pollack, a former military analyst at the CIA and Director for Persian Gulf Affairs at the National Security Council, examines the militaries of six different Arab countries and looks at how culture and politics impacted attempts to build effective military organizations. In the latter half of the 20th century, the Arab world proved unable, for a number of reasons, to field fully effective militaries.

Although Pollack's study concludes with the 1991 Persian Gulf War, his conclusions regarding Iraq's military are still interesting. Iraq's military was always hampered by the divide between Shia and Sunni. Under Saddam Hussein, Sunnis were favored with better weapons and superior training. Shia units were less well-equipped and their training was deliberately limited. Many of the limitations of the Saddam Hussein-era Iraqi military have carried over into the current Iraqi regime. The decision by George W. Bush to engage in de-Ba'athification ensured that the better trained Sunni officers were forced out of the Iraqi Army and replaced with Shia officers that may have owed their positions more to political connections than merit. The consequences are reflected in the very poor performance of the current Shia-dominated Iraqi Army.

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