Author Archive

Carmel: Israel unveils new stealth street-fighting tank

August 14, 2019

Wow, what an awesome vehicle.

Times of Israel also covers this, watch the first video in the article (article not copied into this post but worth a read), and look for the pull-out dividing screens at around the 2min20sec mark. Wow.

Defense Ministry unveils 3 prototypes for Israel’s tanks of the future

https://www.timesofisrael.com/defense-ministry-unveils-3-prototypes-for-israels-tanks-of-the-future/

Carmel: Israel unveils new stealth street-fighting tank

https://nationalinterest.org/blog/buzz/carmel-israel-unveils-new-stealth-street-fighting-tank-72491

Israel has unveiled a new street-fighting tank designed for urban warfare.

The Carmel is a manned but mostly automated vehicle, with Artificial Intelligence controlling many of the tank’s functions. It is the Israel Defense Forces’s response to the lessons of the 2014 Gaza War, where heavy Israeli armored vehicles had difficulty traversing narrow city streets.

The Carmel is a thirty-five ton tracked vehicle with a crew of two. Photos in Israeli media suggest a vehicle that is narrower than a tank, but with a tank-like weapons turret.

“It is almost completely autonomous and highly invisible to enemy radar,” according to the Jerusalem Post. “The platform has breakthrough technologies, including modular transparent armor, next-generation cooperative active protection, an IED alert and neutralization system and a hybrid engine. It is also fitted with tactical drones which can help with surveillance and reconnaissance as well as attack capabilities. The Carmel will also include an entirely new generation of active protection and will allow the two-man crew to operate in closed hatches while still seeing the entire battlefield.

The IDF recently displayed three prototypes during a demonstration in Israel. The Elbit Systems version equips the crew with the IronVision helmet-mounted display, based on helmets developed for F-35 pilots. Rafael’s design features a panoramic console display for 360-degree situational awareness. The Israel Aerospace Industries vehicle uses an Xbox-like joystick.

The IDF emphasized that the Carmel is not a tank. “It’s something totally different than a tank,” said Brigadier General Guy Hasson, chief of the Israeli Armored Corps. “It’s a platform that is totally new.”

What’s interesting is how the Carmel uses—and doesn’t use—AI. Meir Shabtai, an Israel Aerospace Industries robotics manager, told the Post that the Carmel is the “the next generation of combat vehicles” that can autonomously maneuver as well as detect and engage targets at long range.

“The amount of information that a human can understand is limited, so the platform provides the operator only what he needs,” Shabtai said. The vehicle can take the decision to fire at targets and “allow the operator to deal with what he needs to focus on.”

But as Israel’s Ynet News pointed out, the IDF is not choosing to develop a fully robotic tank. “Israel’s plans for its semi-automated armored vehicles shows it intends to keep soldiers at the controls, albeit entirely insulated from the outside thanks to artificial intelligence and smart screens fed by external cameras and sensors,” Ynet noted. IDF officials say that it may be thity years before Israel can deploy a fleet of fully robotic armored vehicles.

But AI or not, the Carmel illustrates the future of armored vehicles. Growing urban sprawl and the rise of “megacities” are making urban combat the norm in warfare. Big, heavy tanks like the M-1 Abrams and T-72 are awkward platforms moving through narrow streets.

The trend is toward developing smaller vehicles armed not with a single big cannon designed to take out tanks, but lighter-caliber weapons. Russia’s Terminator 2 is a T-72 armed with 30-millimeter cannon, grenade launchers and anti-tank missiles. It’s meant to be a combat support tank that assists infantry and regular tanks with firepower, especially in urban areas.

 

IAEA finds traces of radioactive material at Iran site flagged by Netanyahu

July 12, 2019
Well this took a whole lotta time to come out.

Gotta love Bibi’s sense of humour but.

10 months after PM identified ‘secret atomic warehouse’ in Tehran, UN inspectors reportedly conclude that it was indeed used as a nuclear storage facility

Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the United Nations General Assembly on September 27, 2018 in New York City, and holds up a picture of what he said was a secret Iranian nuclear warehouse. (John Moore/Getty Images/AFP)

Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the United Nations General Assembly on September 27, 2018 in New York City, and holds up a picture of what he said was a secret Iranian nuclear warehouse. (John Moore/Getty Images/AFP)

Inspectors from the UN’s nuclear agency have found traces of radioactive material at a building in Tehran that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu identified last year as a “secret atomic warehouse,” an Israeli television report said on Thursday.

Inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency visited the site several times after Netanyahu identified it in an address to the UN General Assembly last September, took soil samples, and have now definitively concluded that there were “traces of radioactive material” there, Channel 13 news reported.

It quoted what it said were four senior Israeli officials involved in the matter, and said the UN agency’s findings had become known to these officials recently.

Iran has denied that the site was a nuclear facility or served any secretive purpose. In an initial response to Netanyahu’s UN speech, Iranian state media claimed the warehouse was actually a recycling facility for scrap metal.

But the IAEA inspectors, who last visited the site in MARCH, have reached a “definitive conclusion” that “there were traces of radioactive material” there, Channel 13 said, and are currently preparing a report on the matter.

The TV report noted that “the storing of radioactive material in a secret facility without informing the IAEA is a breach of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons [NPT], to which Iran is a signatory.”

Indicating that Washington is also aware of the IAEA inspectors’ findings, the TV report said that Israel and the US expect the agency to issue a public report on the matter shortly.

Coincidentally or otherwise, Netanyahu spoke on Wednesday by phone with US President Donald Trump about Iran. “The two leaders discussed cooperation between the United States and Israel in advancing shared national security interests, including efforts to prevent Iran’s malign actions in the region,” the White House said.

Speaking at the United Nations last September, Netanyahu called on the IAEA to inspect what he said was the “secret atomic warehouse” in the Iranian capital.

He claimed some 15 kilograms (33 pounds) of radioactive material had been recently removed from the atomic warehouse and squirreled away around Tehran, endangering the capital’s residents. The site may have contained as much as 300 tons of nuclear-related equipment and material in 15 shipping containers, Netanyahu added. He did not specify what nuclear material was contained at the site.

Netanyahu specified that there was a rug-cleaning business nearby: “Like the atomic archive [revealed by the prime minister in April], it’s another innocent-looking compound. Now, for those of you at home using Google Earth, this no-longer-secret atomic warehouse is on Maher Alley, Maher Street. You have the coordinates, you can try to get there. And for those of you who try to get there, it’s 100 meters from the Kalishoi, the rug cleaning operation. By the way, I hear they do a fantastic job cleaning rugs there. But by now they may be radioactive rugs.”

He added: “Now, countries with satellite capabilities may notice some increased activity on Maher Alley in the days and weeks ahead. The people they’ll see scurrying back and forth are Iranian officials desperately trying to finish the job of cleaning up that site. Because, you see, since we raided the atomic archive, they’ve been busy cleaning out the atomic warehouse.

“Just last month, they removed 15 kilograms of radioactive material,” he went on. “You know what they did with it? They had 15 kilograms of radioactive material, they had to get it out of the site, so they took it out and they spread it around Tehran in an effort to hide the evidence. The endangered residents of Tehran may want to know that they can get a Geiger counter on Amazon for only $29.99… They took this radioactive material and spread it around Tehran.

“Now, the Iranian officials cleaning out that site still have a lot of work to do because they’ve had at least, at least 15 ship containers, they’re gigantic, 15 ship containers full of nuclear related equipment and material stored there. Now, since each of those containers can hold 20 tons of material, this means that this site contains as much as 300 tons, 300 tons of nuclear related equipment and material.”

That speech came months after Israel’s disclosure that it had spirited away what it said was a “half-ton” of Iranian nuclear documents from Tehran, with Netanyahu saying both the archive and the warehouse were proof that Iran continues to seek atomic weapons despite the 2015 international agreement to limit its nuclear program. “Iran has not abandoned its goal to develop nuclear weapons…. Rest assured that will not happen. What Iran hides, Israel will find,” Netanyahu told the UN.

Following Netanyahu’s UN appearance, IAEA head Yukiya Amano said nuclear inspectors had visited “all the sites and locations in Iran which it needed to visit,” while pushing back against the prime minister’s assertion that the organization had failed to act on intelligence provided by Israel on the warehouse.

Diplomats quoted in April, however, said the IAEA visited the site in Tehran’s Turquzabad district multiple times the previous month. They said tests were underway on environmental samples taken from the facility in order to determine if nuclear materials were present there. It was said then that results could be ready by June.

“We have nothing to hide and any access given to the IAEA so far has been in the framework of laws and regulations and nothing beyond that,” an Iranian official said at the time.

Referring to Netanyahu’s statements as “ridiculous,” an Iranian state TV report said the country was committed to nonproliferation and noted Iran’s nuclear program was under surveillance of the IAEA. A state TV website briefly reported the Netanyahu accusation and called it an “illusion.”

A Tasnim News reporter who visited the warehouse last October was told by a worker from inside the facility that it was not a military site, and that the Israeli leader was “a stupid person” for believing it was a nuclear warehouse. The reporter did not enter the facility, only speaking to the worker via intercom from outside the locked gate.

The owner of the nearby carpet cleaning business told Tasnim “there was nothing out of the ordinary” about the warehouse, and asserted that Netanyahu was fed disinformation to “make him a fool.”

Netanyahu was a vocal opponent of the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran when it was signed under Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama, arguing that it would not stop but only delay Iran’s nuclear weapon program, while removing sanctions critical to curbing Tehran. He praised Trump for withdrawing from the accord in May.

Iran has denied it is seeking atomic weapons, while warning it would walk back its commitment to the nuclear accord if it does not receive economic inducements from its remaining signatories — Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China. In recent days, it has breached the accord’s cap on uranium enrichment levels.

Agencies contributed to this report.

Herman Wouk and Jewish Tradition

May 20, 2019

Coverage in the Aussie media here:

https://www.theherald.com.au/story/6131333/us-author-herman-wouk-dead-at-103/?cs=7594

Interesting article below.

May his memory be a blessing.

https://www.aish.com/jw/s/Herman-Wouk-and-Jewish-Tradition.html?s=mm

Herman Wouk, the Pulitzer Prize winning and bestselling author, has died at the age of 103, just ten days short of his 104th birthday. His long career spanned a tumultuous time in American Jewish history, as many first and second generation Jews assimilated and shed their Jewish identities.

Throughout it all, Wouk was a passionate spokesman for Jewish rituals and lifestyle, introducing many Jews and non-Jews to the beauty of a Jewish life and helping traditional Judaism go mainstream. His book This Is My God was a must-read for searching Jews finding their way back to Jewish observance.

Wouk was born in New York in 1915; his parents Esther and Abraham Wouk were religious Jewish immigrants from Belarus who raised their three children with a deep love of being Jewish. Following college at Columbia University, Wouk worked as a comedy sketch writer, then joined the navy after the attack on Pearl Harbor, serving with distinction. He later said that soldiers from all over the United States changed him, giving him a better understanding of his country and the people in it. Soon, he became a part of the fabric of American culture himself, bringing Jewish experiences into the mainstream American experience.

His novel Marjorie Morningstar was published in 1955 and became a runaway bestseller, selling three million copies in the US alone. It featured Marjorie, a Jewish American woman who tries to become an actress, shedding much of her Judaism and conventional family life along the way. At the end of the novel, after many disappointments, Marjorie realizes what will truly make her happy, settling for a much more sedate lifestyle, marrying a Jewish husband and raising children. The novel was one of the first to describe an attractive, typical character who was also Jewish, and broke new ground in describing Jewish traditions and rituals such as a Passover Seder in a popular book.

When Marjorie Morningstar was made into a movie starring Natalie Wood in 1958, it was the first American film since The Jazz Singer in 1927 to depict Jewish rituals on screen, making Jewish observance acceptable to a new generation of theatre-goers.

Wouk was prolific, writing over two dozen novels, including such wildly popular works as The Caine Mutiny in 1951 and The Winds of War in 1971. He wrote several books about World War II, the Holocaust, and the state of Israel. One of his favorite books, however, was non-fiction: This is My God, first published in 1959. At a time of widespread assimilation, Wouk wanted to explain traditional Judaism to a wider audience. His book described Jewish tradition, including keeping kosher, the Jewish holidays, and milestones such as brit milah and weddings. He wanted, he wrote, to give Jews “permission to believe” in a religion that was often seen as old fashioned and irrelevant. For years, This is My God was a popular bar mitzvah gift and was widely read by both Jews and non-Jews.

In describing a typical American Jews of the time, Wouk wrote “his grandparents were fairly religious, his parents much less so and he is wholly indifferent”. This assimilated American Jew is well educated, has a good job, and is good-hearted and pleasant – but is also intensely ashamed of being a Jew. Wouk’s book was his attempt to change that, to show the beauty and majesty of the Jewish faith, and to encourage readers to see themselves as part of a proud tradition and wider Jewish community.

In the 1988 editions of the book, Wouk noted “if I were to write it afresh now, the book would have a more intensely Jewish tone. In 1959 I was preoccupied with proving that an educated Westerner could live a traditional Jewish existence, not only without any intellectual sacrifices, but much to his enrichment. Today, I take that for granted.”

Within the period of high assimilation rates in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, however, Wouk stood out as a proud defender of Jewish tradition and identity. In 1955 he was featured on the cover of Time magazine, and he talked about his return to the traditional Jewish lifestyle with which he grew up. It was an unpopular position at the time but Wouk was adamant that he wouldn’t compromise his Jewishness, even if it seemed unfashionable. “He is a devout Orthodox Jew who had achieved worldly success in worldly-wise Manhattan,” the Time article explained, “while adhering to dietary prohibitions and traditional rituals which many of his fellow Jews find embarrassing.”

Indeed, Wouk lived a glamorous life, with homes in Manhattan, the US Virgin Islands, and Fire Island off the coast of New York. He dressed well and was well-spoken in interviews. The fact that he also maintained Jewish traditions was proof to some that American Jews could be educated and successful and also be religiously observant and proud of their Jewishness. He was married to the same woman, Betty Sarah Brown, for 66 years, until her death in 2011. They had three children, two of whom survive him, as well as three grandchildren and two great grandchildren.

Wouk’s life, like that of American Jews as a whole, was one of evolution. Towards the end of his life Wouk seems to have become even more religiously observant, studying the Talmud every day and helping to establish Jewish study groups near his various homes. In later years, he also taught weekly Talmud classes.

Many of Wouk’s books remain popular. Yet his greatest legacy might be his intense pride in his Jewishness – and his encouragement to other Jews to be proud as well. In 1988, Wouk recalled a meeting he’d had years earlier with David Ben Gurion, the first Prime Minister of Israel.

“Ben Gurion said to me in his office,” Wouk recalled, “the wise, tough old builder of Israel, with the floating white hair of a dreamer and the hard jaw of an army general – ‘You Jews in the United States are different from any Jewish community that has ever existed. You are not strangers or no more strangers than anyone else in your land. America consists of immigrants. You belong like the rest, and you will prosper. But how will you survive as Jews?’

“Without thinking,” Wouk recounted, “I answered, ‘Through the religion’.”

That devotion to Judaism and Jewish tradition maintained Wouk throughout his long life, and continues to inspire us with his works and his example. May Herman Wouk’s memory be a blessing for us all.

Weird ways Israel won its war of independence

March 23, 2019

Some good viewing.

Has the “Arab Spring” reached Gaza?

March 23, 2019

Here’s hoping its popcorn time…

http://jcpa.org/has-the-arab-spring-reached-gaza/

Has the “Arab Spring” Reached Gaza?

  • Hamas has failed in its attempts to silence media coverage of the protest demonstrations in Gaza against the rising cost of living and the demonstrations continue.
  • In these demonstrations, which began March 14, 2019, Gaza residents were directing their anger towards the Hamas regime, rather than Israel.
  • The demonstrations are led by an independent youth movement called “We Want to Live!,” which receives widespread public support and support from PLO factions. The “We Want to Live” movement is an independent youth movement that has nothing to do with any political body and was established against the background of the increase in taxes imposed by Hamas on the population and on the unemployment rate among the younger generation, which stands at 69 percent.
  • Hamas security forces carried out dozens of arrests throughout the Gaza Strip, arresting demonstrators who took part in the protests of the “We Want to Live” movement.
    In the Gaza Strip, there is already talk that the “Arab Spring” has reached the Gaza Strip and that Hamas attempts to divert internal and international attention from the demonstrations by firing two M-15 Fajr rockets at Tel Aviv has failed.

Hamas has failed in its attempts to silence media coverage of the protest demonstrations in Gaza against the rising cost of living. Despite Hamas’ efforts, these demonstrations continue.

The demonstrations are led by an independent youth movement called “We Want to Live!” [bidna naish, in Arabic], which receives widespread public support and backing from PLO factions.

By the end of the week of March 17, 2019, Hamas security forces had carried out dozens of arrests throughout the Gaza Strip, detaining demonstrators who took part in the protests of the “We Want to Live” movement. Several journalists covering the demonstrations were also arrested.

The demonstrations began on March 14, 2019, in protest against the rising cost of living in the Gaza Strip. But Gazan residents were directing their anger toward the Hamas regime. Hamas security forces dispersed the demonstrators with gunfire and clubs, especially in the central demonstrations in the Jabalya refugee camp and Deir al-Balah.

The Palestinian Center for Human Rights reported on March 16, 2019, that the demonstrations against the cost of living took place in the Jabalya, Al-Bureij, and Nuseirat refugee camps and the cities of Khan Yunis and Rafah, and that these protests were forcibly dispersed by Hamas security forces.

The director of the Center for Human Rights, Jamil Sarhan, and another lawyer named Bahar al-Turkhamani were beaten by Hamas police.

The anger of the residents of the Gaza Strip is increasing due to the difficult economic situation, taxes, which Hamas has imposed, as well as rising unemployment. Hamas is also suffering from severe financial distress, as the first anniversary of the “March of Return” approaches on March 30, 2019.

Many in the Gaza Strip saw the first year of the Hamas-initiated march as a failure because the campaign failed to break the Israeli blockade on the Gaza Strip as Hamas promised, despite more than 100 fatalities and the thousands of casualties.

The Background to the Current Wave of Protest

According to sources in the Gaza Strip, the “We Want to Live” movement is an independent youth movement that has no ties to any political body and was established against the background of the increase in taxes imposed by Hamas on the population and on the unemployment rate among the younger generation, which stands at 69 percent.

Gazans say that Hamas is increasing taxes to build up the organization’s revenues. Those who are suffering the most in Gaza are the residents who are not affiliated with the organization and do not receive services from Hamas institutions.

According to residents’ testimonies, Hamas imposed taxes on medical treatment in hospitals and on surgeries, even on those people who already paid for medical insurance. The taxes on vehicle licensing were also raised, and a tax of NIS 200 was imposed on all goods weighing more than a ton.

Hamas also increased the tax on goods smuggled from Egypt into the Gaza Strip through the tunnels. A pack of “Royal” cigarettes, which were sold for 4 NIS (New Israeli Shekels), now cost between NIS 26 and NIS 30.

The PLO Factions Support the Protest

Representatives of all the Palestinian factions met on March 16, 2019, in the offices of the Popular Front in Gaza Strip to discuss the latest developments and the violent clampdown on the demonstrations. Hamas and Islamic Jihad organizations boycotted the meeting.

At the end of the meeting, the participants issued a statement in support of the youth movement holding the demonstrations.

The following decisions were announced:

  • Opposition to all forms of suppression of the protests and against any violations of the human rights of demonstrators.
  • Calls upon Hamas to punish anyone who attacked the demonstrators and issue an apology to them, and to withdraw all its security personnel from the streets.
  • Support for the just demands of the demonstrators.
  • Calls upon Hamas to stop all types of taxes on goods and to introduce price controls.
  • Calls upon Egypt to renew the reconciliation process.

Fatah leader Muhammad Dahlan, who has good relations with the Hamas leadership in the Gaza Strip, called on the Hamas leadership to stop all forms of oppression and the use of force against the “cost of living” demonstrators. He also called on Egypt to intervene and secure a Palestinian national agreement.

These developments are in accordance with the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority and its head, who is encouraging these protests. Two years ago, on the advice of Palestinian Intelligence Chief Majed Faraj, Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas decided to impose sanctions on the Gaza Strip and worsen the situation there to make the economic situation so dire that Gazan residents would rebel against Hamas.

Senior Fatah official Hussein a-Sheikh said at the end of the week that the Palestinian leadership is in contact with influential Muslim countries to pressure the Hamas movement into stopping the oppressive tactics used against innocent civilians demanding a dignified lifestyle and the abolition of illegal taxes. Palestinian Authority sources reported that Abbas appealed to Egypt and Qatar to exert influence on Hamas to stop suppressing the demonstrators.

Fatah spokesman Osama al-Qawasmeh appeared on official Palestinian television and called on demonstrators to continue their demonstrations: “Our message is to our heroes who are fighting Hamas militias in the Gaza Strip, because the road to Jerusalem begins with a revolution against tyranny. We in the Fatah movement stand with you, and we will always be loyal to you.”

Where Are Things Headed?

In the Gaza Strip, there is already talk that the “Arab Spring” has reached the Gaza Strip and that Hamas attempts to divert internal and international attention from the demonstrations by firing two M-75 Fajr rockets at Tel Aviv had failed.

The phenomenon of the “Arab Spring” began in Tunisia in 2011, after a vegetable vendor named Mohammed Bouazizi set himself on fire in the city of Sidi Said. Now, Gazans are following Bouazizi’s example in the Gaza Strip.

Ahmed Abu Tahn, 32, a resident of the Gaza Strip, set himself on fire on March 16, 2019, to protest the rising cost of living, after being expelled from his home when he could not afford the rent.

The violent repression and arrests of demonstrators by Hamas members are considered a “black stain” on the organization, which is losing its popularity in the Gaza Strip.

Israel’s Bombing of Hamas Targets Won Hamas no Fans
The protests against Hamas began again at the end of the week, even after the bombing of Hamas targets by the Israeli Air Force. According to sources in the Gaza Strip, these protests are supposed to continue, in light of the wave of arrests of demonstrators carried out by Hamas and the public support received by the demonstrators from Palestinian factions affiliated with the PLO.

At the same time, Hamas began to withdraw its supporters from demonstration areas of the “We Want to Live!” movement, so that Gazans would protest against the Palestinian Authority and hold the PA’s leaders to blame for the difficult economic situation.

Of course, Israel will soon again be blamed for the humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip.

Attorney Fahmi Shabaneh, a former senior Palestinian intelligence official in the West Bank, told Hamas paper Al-Risala on March 16, 2019, that the PA security forces were encouraging instability in the Gaza Strip, were paying money to transport people to demonstrations, and were taking advantage of the difficult economic situation. “Once an agreement is reached between Israel and Hamas, everything will end,” Shabaneh says.

A day in the life of a Israeli Navy Soldier

March 23, 2019

A video for Joseph…

 

 

Why are Arab armies rubbish?

February 1, 2019

This is a review of the book Armies of Sand: The Past, Present, and Future of Arab Military Effectiveness by Kenneth Pollack.

Why do Arab militaries perform so badly in war? The answer given is below.  

(I would also specifically mention Islam as a component of the culture as well.)

The main source of Arab military ineffectiveness is culture. “It seems unlikely that it is mere coincidence that the most damaging problems that Arab armed forces have suffered in battle just happen to conform perfectly to patterns of behavior emphasized by the dominant Arab culture,” Pollack writes. “It gets even harder to buy given that Arab organizations in other walks of life experience precisely the same patterns of behavior as their armies, despite the fact that those other organizations were not trained by the Soviets, nor were they subject to coup-proofing or other forms of politicization, nor did they behave like similar organizations in other developing countries.”

Pollack identifies key aspects of Arab culture relevant to the book: conformity, centralization of authority, deference to authority and passivity, group loyalty, manipulation of information, atomization of knowledge, personal courage, and ambivalence toward manual labor and technical work. One can see how these values and behaviors will negatively affect military performance, especially the most glaring problem for Arab armed forces: poor tactical leadership from junior officers. Consistently, these officers fail to show any initiative or creativity—they rarely if ever adapt quickly to changing circumstances in battle. This makes perfect sense, though, if one considers these soldiers were trained to conform and defer to authority. This stands in stark contrast to the Israeli military, whose soldiers were raised in the “Start-Up Nation,” which encourages innovation from all ranks.

https://freebeacon.com/culture/mirage-arab-military-might/

Why do Arab militaries perform so badly in war? Israel’s victory in the Six-Day War, Chad’s defeat over Libya in 1987, the Islamic State’s humiliation of the Iraqi security forces—why do they lose when, by all objective measures, they should win? And when they win, why are their victories so small?

These questions are not just academic. Indeed, their answers are central to American foreign policy in the Middle East, for today and for the future.

Go back to May 2014, when then-President Barack Obama told a graduating class of West Point cadets that training foreign soldiers was central to his strategy on counterterrorism. “We have to develop a strategy that matches this diffuse threat—one that expands our reach without sending forces that stretch our military too thin or stir up local resentments,” Obama said. “We need partners to fight terrorists alongside us.” His idea was to deploy small numbers of military trainers and advisers to the Middle East and elsewhere to assist local forces, keeping the American footprint to a minimum.

More than four years later, President Donald Trump has continued this approach, which, along with his decision to withdraw American troops from Syria, indicate that the United States will need to rely on Middle Eastern forces to do their own fighting. Given that the United States will still have vital interests in the Middle East to protect, Washington will need to care even more about the effectiveness of Arab armed forces.

Enter Kenneth Pollack, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. Pollack’s new book, Armies of Sand: The Past, Present, and Future of Arab Military Effectiveness, seeks to explain the reasons for Arab military weakness since World War II and why the same problems are consistent across the Arab world. Sweeping in its scope yet accessible to the layman, Armies of Sand is a remarkable scholarly achievement that should be required reading for anyone involved in forming American foreign policy in the Middle East.

Arab armed forces have performed poorly in numerous areas of warfare. These problems—too many to list here—range from poor tactical leadership by junior officers to poor strategic leadership by generals, from mismanagement of information to struggles handling weapons. Other problems include unit cohesion, terrible equipment maintenance, and sub-par training.

Pollack identifies four theories that experts have proposed to explain the weaknesses of Arab armed forces: reliance on Soviet-style doctrine and military methods; poor civil-military relations and the “excessive politicization of Arab militaries resulting from the constant coups—and coup-proofing—endemic to the Arab states”; economic factors, particularly the “chronic underdevelopment of the Arab states throughout the post-World War II era”; and “patterns of behavior derived from Arab culture.”

“Although numerous observers have written books, articles, and papers arguing for one explanation or another, no one has ever looked at all of them collectively to try to deduce which are wrong and which right; whether these recurrent patterns of Arab military ineffectiveness could be traced back to just one overarching source, or a combination of some or all,” Pollack writes. “No one has ever tried to sift through them and figure out which ones hold water, and which are just hogwash. That is the purpose of this book.”

Pollack’s first takeaway is that relying on Soviet military doctrine is not the cause of the Arabs’ military problems. To the contrary, the Soviets were more helpful than hurtful. Regardless, there was no correlation between an Arab military’s reliance on Soviet methods and its performance on the battlefield.

Second, politicization was a problem, but not the most important one. It definitely hurt the effectiveness of Arab armed forces in many ways, but “deficiencies in tactical leadership, tactical information management, air operations, weapons handling, and maintenance persisted regardless of how politicized or professional they were.”

Third, economic underdevelopment was similarly an “element of modern Arab military ineffectiveness, and arguably an important one—just not the most important one.” None of the non-Arab militaries that Pollack examined experienced the same difficulties that were the greatest problems of the Arab armed forces.

The main source of Arab military ineffectiveness is culture. “It seems unlikely that it is mere coincidence that the most damaging problems that Arab armed forces have suffered in battle just happen to conform perfectly to patterns of behavior emphasized by the dominant Arab culture,” Pollack writes. “It gets even harder to buy given that Arab organizations in other walks of life experience precisely the same patterns of behavior as their armies, despite the fact that those other organizations were not trained by the Soviets, nor were they subject to coup-proofing or other forms of politicization, nor did they behave like similar organizations in other developing countries.”

Pollack identifies key aspects of Arab culture relevant to the book: conformity, centralization of authority, deference to authority and passivity, group loyalty, manipulation of information, atomization of knowledge, personal courage, and ambivalence toward manual labor and technical work. One can see how these values and behaviors will negatively affect military performance, especially the most glaring problem for Arab armed forces: poor tactical leadership from junior officers. Consistently, these officers fail to show any initiative or creativity—they rarely if ever adapt quickly to changing circumstances in battle. This makes perfect sense, though, if one considers these soldiers were trained to conform and defer to authority. This stands in stark contrast to the Israeli military, whose soldiers were raised in the “Start-Up Nation,” which encourages innovation from all ranks.

The education system in Arab societies drilled in these values to the point that they became central to soldiers’ behavior. “Typical Arab educational practices relentlessly inculcated the values, preferences, and preferred behavior—the culture—of the wider society,” Pollack writes.

Pollack also explains that Arab military programs are modeled on the educational methods of the larger society, reinforcing certain patterns of behavior and conditioning soldiers to act and think in “ways that reflect the values and priorities of the dominant culture.”

Pollack’s findings present hurdles for the United States, which has spent decades trying to build more effective Arab militaries. The logic behind this approach is simple: Partners in the region can act as force multipliers for Washington, lessening the burden on the American military. When these efforts backslide, however, the United States often has to deploy more of its own soldiers or, at the very least, invest more resources to help the locals fight. If Arab culture is the main source of the Arabs’ military woes, then sending their leaders to American military schools will not be sufficient, nor will more training. The United States can take certain steps, some of which Pollack discusses, to make moderate, but still significant, progress, but anything more would require broader changes in Arab society—a much taller task.

Another related problem for Washington is that its Arab allies cannot be expected to counter the greatest threats in the region: Iran, Iran’s proxies, and Sunni jihadist groups like ISIS. The Iraqi Army’s breakdown in 2014 proves this point for the latter. The United States is effectively seeking an unofficial alliance of Arab states (and Israel) to counter Iran’s aggression in the Middle East. It may give Arab states billions of dollars in military aid and sophisticated weapons, but these countries have far fewer soldiers on whom to rely in a conflict with the Islamic Republic, and those whom they have are less battle-tested. Only Egypt and Turkey have comparable numbers, but the former is weak and the latter has close economic relations with Tehran. Beyond conventional strength, Iran is also much better than the Arabs at training foreign fighters and creating proxy forces.

Pollack makes a crucial point: The Middle East is going through unprecedented changes—social, economic, technological, and political. This transformation will affect Arab culture and may even “benefit Arab armies in combat.” Additionally, warfare in the 21st century is changing. It is possible that the Arabs will adapt better as the world moves from the Industrial Age to the Information Age. The future is uncertain, but Arab militaries could become more effective.

The United States should care about the effectiveness of Arab armed forces, but the reality is that a sustainable security system in the Middle East requires active American military power on the ground. The United States should work to strengthen allies, but that is not sufficient. History proves that when America is not actively engaged in the Middle East, it will inevitably be forced to return to the region and in a more forceful way. The United States must decide whether it will lead in the Middle East or be an uninvolved bystander. If Washington chooses the latter, it better prepare itself for the inevitable disaster to come.