The Threatening Storm: The United States and Iraq-The Crisis, the Strategy, and the Prospects after Saddam
Lacquement, Richard, Naval War College Review
THE ARABS AND MILITARY EFFECTIVENESS
Pollack, Kenneth M. The Threatening Storm: The United States and Iraq-The Crisis, the Strategy, and the Prospects after Saddam. New York: Random House, 2002. 528pp. $25.95
Pollack, Kenneth M. Arabs at War. Military Effectiveness, 1948-1991. Lincoln: Univ. of Nebraska Press, 2002. 698pp. $49.95
The U.S. engagement in the Middle East has dramatically escalated due to the recent war in Iraq. These two books provide valuable historical background as well as cogent national security policy analysis that commands attention from military and other national security leaders.
Kenneth Pollack, a highly regarded Middle East analyst, is a senior fellow for Foreign Policy Studies at the Brookings Institution and director of research for the institution's Saban Center for Middle East Policy. Pollack is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations (sponsor of both books), a former CIA analyst, and a former National Security Council staff member. He has been a frequent commentator on the television news and a regular contributor to newspaper op-ed pages, and he has been published in such prominent journals as Foreign Affairs and International security. Pollack has considerable expertise in Middle Eastern affairs and skillfully brings it to bear. Both books are well written and easily accessible to a general audience, and they provide strong analysis. The Threatening Storm also contains several soundly supported policy recommendations.
The books came out in autumn 2002, contributing constructively to the debate leading up to the recent war with Iraq. Superficially, it might appear that The Threatening Storm is outdated, given the fulfillment of Pollack's recommendation for war. Similarly, the immediate operational value of Arabs at War may also seem overtaken by events. However, even though their value was greater prior to the war, discounting their continuing value would be a mistake.
The Threatening Storm is an important policy examination that also incorporates a good, concise overview of Iraq and its earlier relationship with the United States. The book's centerpiece is Pollack's comprehensive and compelling case for war against Saddam-led Iraq as the best of available policy alternatives. However, he provides more than just an argument for war.
Confident the United States would quickly win a war with Iraq at an acceptable cost, Pollack emphasizes that winning the war would not be enough and therefore provides an outline for American diplomatic, economic, informational, and military efforts to support successful postconflict reconstruction. The war has been won with fewer forces than Pollack and many others would have preferred, but the number of forces sufficient to win the war might not be enough to secure the peace. Hence, Pollack's postconflict analysis found in chapter 12 ("Rebuilding Iraq") remains useful. Additionally, in chapter 10 Pollack provides an interesting look into American military operations, particularly regarding airpower in the first Gulf War, Kosovo, and Afghanistan.
Arabs at War is an excellent work of military history. Pollack discusses the military performance of six Arab countries-Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Libya, Saudi Arabia, and Syria-from 1948 to 1991. Although the record is heavily weighted with episodes from the Arab-Israeli wars, there are numerous other conflicts that support the analysis of Arab military effectiveness.
Pollack's definition of military effectiveness "refers to the ability of soldiers and officers to perform on the battlefield, to accomplish military missions, and to execute the strategies devised by their political-military leaders. If strategy is the military means by which political ends are pursued, military effectiveness refers to the skills that are employed." Pollack explores nine possible explanations for a remarkable record of Arab military ineffectiveness since World War II: cowardice, lack of morale, training, unit cohesion, generalship, tactical leadership, information management, technical skills and weapons handling, and logistics and maintenance. …