Pollack has followed up his seminal study of Arab military, Arabs at War: Military Effectiveness, 1948-1991, with an equally impressive, exhaustively researched work, and eminently readable one. The author begins with a review of the 1967 war and segues into a discussion in which he demolishes an oft-advanced academic belief that the ineffectiveness of the Arabs has been due to their slavish adherence to the Soviet way of war. He elaborates on this by examining the operations of three armies that followed Soviet doctrine and achieved success, including the Cubans in Africa.
The remainder of the book covers politicization of Arab military leadership, the economic underdevelopment of Arab states, and a perceptive cultural explanation for the ineffectiveness of Arab military performance. Pollack deftly compares the politicization of the Egyptian and Iraqi military to that of South Vietnam and Argentina, including the pervasive corruption of the Iraqi and South Vietnamese armies. Contrasting the impact of Arab economic underdevelopment with that of other countries at similar stages of development, such as the Chinese at the time of the Korean War, he finds little correlation between economic underdevelopment and military effectiveness.
The author analyzes various aspects of culture that reduce Arab military effectiveness such as the predilection to shift blame for failures using secrecy, deception, and exaggeration, or to enhance it by emphasizing the Arab trait of intense loyalty to friends and family, and by extension to fellow soldiers.
Pollack concentrates on performance in conventional wars, regarding the superior performance of Hezbollah and ISIS as counter-cultural phenomena. He reveals a number of reasons for this, but it would have been more instructive to state his inference up front: The same culture that inhibits Arab conventional war effectiveness enhances Arab unconventional war. An expanded analysis of Arab irregular forces would have been particularly useful as it is likely that U.S. forces will continue to face Arabs in irregular warfare in which they have historically performed skillfully.
The author has done a masterful job of pulling together disparate pieces of recent Arab military history with the lessons learned and weaving together a scholarly and well-supported conclusion: The key to the Arab military deficiency in conventional warfare is cultural.
 Lincoln, Neb.: Bison Books, 2004.