Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Arabs at War

Coming out of last week's lecture on the Biddle readings I left with some ambivalence. Having no military background I just naturally accepted Biddle's argument since it seemed well-formed and Michael O'Hanlon likes him; but Devon (sorry for misspelling) made some good points in his "cross examination" of Biddle's thesis leaving me conflicted.

However, after reading Pollack's piece this week I'm at least beginning to give the edge to Biddle. Pollack seems to argue the same thing as Biddle but substitutes the term "force employment" for "military effectiveness." In Pollack's argument "military effectiveness" basically encompasses: unit cohesion, tactical leadership, morale, training, cowardice, logistics,k technical/weapon skills, and information management.

In the breakdown of the 6 Day War, Pollack traces the misteps back to Egypt's military effectiveness, primarily their unorganized retreat, unclear mission objectives in the Sinai, bad intelligence on Israeli forces, and lack of quality generalship. As Pollack says on page 81, "The Egyptians probably had the best strategy; they just did not execute it very well." Essentially the case for why force employment is imperative to modern combat.

This seems to be a classic case to support the theory. Egypt had numerical preponderance, technology was roughly equivalent between the two sides, but Israel was better trained and therefore prevailed. Even a defeated Egyptian general looking back "developed the conviction that the human element-the quality of the fighter-and not the weapon was what counted in victory" (100).

We also see the big difference that disciplined training and professional leadership made for the Egyptian army between the 6 Day War and the Yom Kippur War. Egypt performed well in taking the canals (even with Israeli numbers low-but hey, thats part of the excellent planning) and establishing a defensive front. Events after that they did not perform well, but that was because they still weren't properly trained for mobile combat, and thus were defeated.

On a side note if anybody has actually read to this point, I thought I'd give links to my favorite mlitary blogs that I recently discovered in a Wired magazine article:

http://avengerredsix.blogspot.com/ talks life in a tank squadron and about day-t0-day events. There's also detailed entries on the Battle of Falluja, as well as videos that the author has made.

http://thunder6.typepad.com/365_arabian_nights/ is not so much detail about actual combat, but the quality of the writing is extremely impressive, almost poetic. Check out the archive for the author's musings on everything from sandstorms to his wife. Good stuff.

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