Why American Efforts to Train Arab Armies Have Failed, and How They Can Succeed

Since Anwar Sadat moved Egypt into the U.S. orbit, Washington has spent many millions of dollars to train and equip the Egyptian military, which nonetheless fought poorly in the 1991 Gulf War. Similarly, the U.S.-trained Iraqi army was swiftly routed by Islamic State in 2014 and the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen—made up of countries that have likewise received massive military assistance from the U.S. and supported by American advisers—has failed to quell the Houthi rebels there. Kenneth Pollack argues that the U.S. must rethink its approach to supporting its Arab allies:

The fraught civil-military relations of the Arab world mean that many Arab rulers are so frightened of being overthrown by ambitious generals that they purposely hobble the armed forces to keep them weak. Whenever that has happened, it has typically led to poor strategic leadership and communications and, on occasion, poor morale and unit cohesion. . . .

But the most critical factor is that Arab cultural-educational practices conditioned too many of their personnel to remain passive at lower levels of any hierarchy and to manipulate information to avoid blame. In modern combat—where the difference between victory and defeat is often aggressive, innovative junior officers able to react to unforeseen circumstances and take advantage of fleeting opportunities—these tendencies proved devastating time and again. . . .

The U.S. failure to improve Arab militaries wasn’t unique or America’s fault. But the United States should have learned long ago that attempting to make Arab forces a carbon copy of the Marines wasn’t going to work. Instead of Americans trying to force Arab military personnel to do things their way, they should look for ways to help them do what they do somewhat better. They won’t get to U.S. levels of effectiveness that way, but then again, trying to force them to think and act like Americans has not succeeded so far, either, and probably never will.

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More about: Anwar Sadat, Arab World, Military history, Persian Gulf War, Politics & Current Affairs, U.S. Foreign policy

European Aid to the Middle East Is Shaped by a Political Agenda

Feb. 18 2019

The EU’s European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations Unit dispenses millions of dollars in economic and humanitarian assistance to dozens of countries every year. Although it claims to operate on principles of strict neutrality, independent of any political motivation and giving priority to the neediest cases, a look at its activities in the Middle East suggests an entirely different approach, as Hillel Frisch writes:

[T]he Middle East is the overwhelming beneficiary of EU humanitarian aid—nearly 1 billion of just over 1.4 billion euros. . . . The bulk of the funds goes toward meeting the costs of assistance to Syrian refugees, followed by smaller sums to Iraq, Yemen, “Palestine,” and North Africa. Sub-Saharan Africa, by contrast, receives less than one-third of that amount. The problem with such allocations is that the overwhelming majority of people living in dire poverty reside in sub-Saharan Africa, India, and Bangladesh. . . . The Palestinians, who are richer on average than those living in the poorest states of the world, . . . receive over six euros per capita, while the populations of the poorest states receive less than one-eighth of that amount. . . .

Even less defensible is the EU’s claim to political neutrality. Its favoritism toward the Palestinians on this score is visible as soon as one enters terms into the general search function on the European Commission’s website. Enter “Palestine” and you get 20,737 results. Enter “Ethiopia” and you get almost the same figure, despite massive differences in population size (Ethiopia’s 100 million versus fewer than 5 million Palestinians), geographic expanse (Ethiopia is 50 times the size of “Palestine”), and degree of sheer suffering. The Syrian crisis, which is said to have led to the loss of a half-million lives, merits not many more site results than “Palestine.”

One of the foci of the website’s reports [on the Palestinians] is the plight of 35,000 Bedouin whom the EU assists, often in clear violation of the law, in Area C—the part of the West Bank under exclusive Israeli control. The hundreds of thousands of Bedouin in Sinai, however, the plight of whom is readily acknowledged even by Egyptian officials, gets no mention, even though Egypt is a recipient of EU aid. . . .

Clearly, the EU’s approach to aid allocation has nothing to do with impartiality, true social-welfare needs, or humanitarian considerations. [Instead], it favors allocations to Syrian refugees above Yemeni refugees because of the higher probability that Syrian refugees will find their way to Europe. . . . The recipients of European largesse who are next in line [to Syrians], in relative terms, are the Palestinians. [This particular policy] can be attributed primarily to the EU’s hostility toward Israel, its rightful historical claims, and its security needs.

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More about: Europe and Israel, European Union, Israel & Zionism, Palestinians