Cordesman stands back and looks in illuminating detail at two main subjects: the relative strength of the Israeli vs. the Arab forces and the possible scenarios of war between the two sides.

Assessing the military balance, the author starts with formalistic lists of equipment and manpower, then peels away the externalities to get at the real strengths and weaknesses, the "intangibles." Crude numbers show Israel in trouble; a look at only the highest performance weapons shows Israel's position to be somewhat better; and a consideration of the whole picture -- including quality of personnel and training, readiness, forward leadership, technological competence, command and control, combined operations, waging "24-hour war," and deep strike capabilities -- shows Israel to have a force qualitatively better than that of its neighbors. In this sense not much has changed from prior decades; indeed, Cordesman gives the distinct sense that Israel's edge continues to increase.

As for scenarios, Perilous Prospects takes up eight in all, from a renewed intifada to an all out nuclear war, including a takeover of the Egyptian government by fundamentalists. Perhaps most interesting, because otherwise so little noted, is the 35-page analysis of a Syrian grab for the Golan Heights, which Cordesman sees as a realistic possibility intended "to create new facts on the ground" and perhaps "to alter the outcome of peace negotiations."