The Middle East Military Balance, 2001-2002
Edited by Shlomo Brom and Yiftah Shapir. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2002. 400 pp. $37.95.
Reviewed by Asaf Romirowsky
Middle East Forum
Middle East Quarterly
The Jaffee Center's annual compilation considers the ramifications of military power in the Middle East. While Arab states are examined, they are seen through the prism of Israeli security. Brom focuses on the role of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), finding that their addition to the mix implies that balance-of-power assessments must now include an ability to sustain a chemical/biological/nuclear attack. Israel has always depended on its high-tech weaponry and the Arab world's inability to breach that technological gap. The proliferation of WMD is in the course of fundamentally changing the region's military balance.
Shapir's extensive inventory of the region's military capabilities highlights Israel's new predicament—the fact that its qualitative edge loses significance when its forces are engaged in limited actions. "Operation Defensive Shield" in early 2002 was just such an operation when Israel reentered Jenin and was forced to target those responsible for terrorist activities instead of blanket bombing. Despite the restraint shown, however, Israel's use of targeted killings may have turned the tide in Israel's favor, as the fighting in Jenin decimated the leadership of those terrorist cells. In Brom's words "as the violence continued, the Palestinian ‘learning curve' swung upward; their forces effectively made a transition to guerilla and terrorist tactics, against which standing armies generally have difficulty formulating a response." Brom concludes from a survey of the Palestinian Authority's growing military force and its alliances with Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad that it seeks to shift from escalating violence to enhanced military capabilities, something that has yet to be seen.
Brom and Shapir made a cautious assessment of pre-war Iraq. Given the Saddam Hussein regime's nuclear program, and in light of reduced international support for sanctions and the no-fly zone, they suggested that there remained a significant threat to the United States. They found Saddam confident of his ability to evade inspections and suggested that Saddam's nuclear program was reconstituted after inspectors were expelled in 1998.
Although the Middle East Military Balance offers much information on the region's militaries, it tends to be more a laundry list of capabilities than a clear guide to the policy implications of the arsenals. As both writers have extensive academic and military backgrounds, recommendations on future strategic initiatives for the region would be welcome.
Related Topics: Asaf Romirowsky | Winter 2004 MEQ
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