An Analysis of the Efficacy of Arab Armies in the Modern Age
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An Analysis of the Efficacy of Arab Armies in the Modern Age

Creation of small Arab states after World War I greatly affected their military forces. It also threw up small time dictators who were themselves scared of their own army and thus preferred to keep their force untrained. This period also brought to the fore rulers who lived an indolent life and neglected the army. In addition the Arabs now seeing materialism with the advent of oil lost the will for harsh life like in the army. The fact is that an average Arab would be happy to live in an air-conditioned tent then join the army

A look at history will confirm that the Arab armies were good fighting forces for over a thousand years. After Muhammad launched his religion the Muslim legions spread out towards India, Central Asia, North Africa and Europe. There was a time when the entire North Africa and Spain was under the sway of the Muslim army. History also records great leaders like Saladin and Suleiman the magnificent who furthered Arab and Muslim conquests.

The dawn of the 20th century saw the Muslim conquests in Europe and India lost. In addition with the breakdown of the Ottoman Empire numerous small states were created. This change was particularly pronounced after the end of World War I (1914-18) when the Ottoman Empire collapsed and the western powers carved numerous small states with a foot ruler without any relation to the actual topography of the region.

The creation of small states was an excellent ploy by the British and the French, as the power of the Muslim states was greatly reduced. In addition these new states started internecine warfare among themselves with the result that they were further weakened.

The creation of these small states greatly affected their military forces. It also threw up small time dictators who were themselves scared of their own army and thus preferred to keep their force untrained. This period also brought to the fore rulers who lived an indolent life and neglected the army. In addition the Arabs now seeing materialism with the advent of oil lost the will for harsh life like in the army. The fact is that an average Arab would be happy to live in an air-conditioned tent then fighting in the desert sand or doing parade and drill in inclement weather.

 This state of affairs took its toll in the battlefield as on successive occasions in wars against Israel like in 1948, 1956 and 1967 the Arabs displayed poor fighting techniques and were by and large routed. Even in the 1973 Yom Kipper war had the war dragged on much longer, there is every chance that Cairo would have been captured with the Egyptian army surrounded and thirsty.

The poor fighting skills of the Arab armies came to the fore in 3 significant engagements. Firstly the Iraq-Iran Conflict showed that the Arab armies just could not launch a proper offensive. The war dragged on for 10 years and at the most it was a stalemate.

Two wars with the USA in 1992 and 2003 ended in a colossal defeat of the Iraq army. Even the so called elite Republican guard failed and surrendered enmasse. Despite the most modern weaponry the Arab armies were found wanting and one significant factor was lack of motivation.

The war in Libya further reinforced the fact that Gaddafi was a paper tiger. His army as well as elite troops failed and over all displayed poor fighting qualities and were beaten.

The fact is that the Arab armies are more into rhetoric and bombastic talk and in actual battle conditions have been found wanting. One of the principles of war, unity of command is sadly lacking and training is given no importance.

What of the future? I am afraid the ground situation has not changed and an Arab victory on the battle field is like a long lost dream. This failure to win on the battlefield has its seeds in the terror tactics adopted by extremist Arab. The hardy fighters of Saladin are a thing of the past and the modern Arab soldier is not mentally attuned to fight.

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