Samson Blinded: A Machiavellian Perspective on the Middle East Conflict
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Edward Said's misjudgments of Israeli-Arab military matters

Edward Said worries that the Middle East conflict consumes over forty percent of the world’s weapons sales, though the actual volume of arms trade is relatively small. Most American and Russian production is for internal use, so relatively few weapons going to the Middle East make up that forty percent,[1] mostly low-end weapons. No country in the Middle East has truly outstanding military resources. Even Israel ran out of replacement parts in the two-week 1973 Egyptian-Israeli War.

Edward Said does not understand Israel’s defeat in Lebanon. Israel had no clear political objectives, so professor Said cannot say whether the Israeli Defense Force fulfilled its mission in Lebanon or not. From a military perspective, the Israeli operation was fruitful—the Palestinian Liberation Organization expelled, a neighbor pacified, Israeli border secured. Israel’s troubles in the Lebanese war stemmed from Israeli restraint from inflicting Arab civilian casualties and zero tolerance for casualties among Israel Defense Forces. It is not possible to fight an effective war under such assumptions. Edward Said accentuates Lebanese jubilation over the Israeli withdrawal, though the Lebanese were just as happy to see the Palestinian Liberation Organization leave.

Edward Said says that Arab education and agriculture have declined in the face of military expenditures of countering Israel, which is ridiculous to anyone acquainted with the state of education and agriculture in the Arab world fifty years ago. Indeed, Israel made major innovations in desert cultivation and shared with Israeli neighbors in the Middle East and Africa.


[1] Israel’s military budget is only $5.5 to $10 billion by various estimates, while Saudi Arabia alone spends $72 billion annually.