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Arms Deals

So it seems that the United States is going to send an additional $30.4 billion worth of military aid to Israel so that the Israelis stop complaining about the $20 billion in "advanced weaponry" that we're trying to sell Saudi Arabia, a country that seems to be offering considerable support to Sunni insurgents in Iraq. And if that wasn't enough, William Arkin adds yet another twist today:

Israel needn't worry. The Saudi military is even less dangerous than the gang who couldn't shoot straight. After gazillions in arms sales during the heyday of oil, when Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990, Saudi Arabia demonstrated that it wasn't capable, even with its advanced American-supplied military, of defending its country. When Desert Storm unfolded in 1991, the Saudi military was well shielded behind the American armed forces: Saudi ground forces were given a sector to operate in where they wouldn't get in the way. Through terrorist attacks in the mid-1990s and the rise of terrorism, the Saudi "military" proved unable to protect itself, let alone the country.

And it's not just incompetence when it comes to the Saudi military. The Saudi monarchy has methodically focused its military on pomp and equipment and spiffy uniforms, ensuring that it not acquire any real offensive capacity or the ability to operate as a coherent force. It does not want a competent, independent military contemplating a coup.

Indeed, Tariq Ali mentioned something similar in his recent review of two books on Saudi Arabia: "[T]he Saud clan, living in a state of permanent fear... [has] kept the size of the national army and air force to the barest minimum. [W]hat happens to the vast quantity of armaments purchased to please the West? Most of them rust peacefully in desert warehouses." Is that true? The Saudis don't even want the weapons in question and have no intention of using them? They just buy them "to please the West"? Do these deals make any sense to anyone who's not a defense contractor?

--Bradford Plumer