Why Do Arabs Lose Wars These Days?

A retired senior US military trainer writes a scathing critique of Arab military culture in American Diplomacy. Based on personal experience training Arab officers and soldiers, and research into Arab military history, Norvelle de Atkine observes that:
“* Arab officers are not concerned about the welfare and safety of their men.
* The Arab military mind does not encourage initiative on the part of junior officers, or any officers for that matter.
* Responsibility is avoided and deflected, not sought and assumed.
* Political paranoia and operational hermeticism, rather than openness and team effort, are the rules of advancement (and survival) in the Arab military establishments.”
If De Atkine is right, then why are Arabs so much worse at war these days?
In the initial ages of Muslim expansion and world leadership (7th-11th centuries), Arabs had formidable military might. In later centuries (13th-17th), Muslim powers built empires through military prowess, often with armies of Turkish or Central Asian origin.
What’s happened since? Have there been changes in Arab culture in general, or Arab military culture in particular that render their armies less effective? Has the culture remained the same, while war has changed in modern times? Is there any cultural connection between the old Arab military powers and today’s squabbling, hierarchy-bound, poorly-trained troops. Is there a persuasive argument that European colonialism caused the decline?
I’m fairly new to the study of Muslim history; would love plausible explanations and good references from folks who are knowledgable about the subject.
De Atkine, by the way, seems to be an equal opportunity critic — here’s his analysis of the US military’s persistent inability to train people and develop skills to fight “small wars.”

And next week, we invade South Carolina

Bush administration lawyers claim that there’s no need to consult Congress about attacking Iraq, since the 1991 Gulf War resolution is still in effect. Never mind that the resolution was passed in response to Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, or that the Gulf War seemed at the time to have ended with the April 91 cease fire.
It’s true that the lines of responsibility for starting wars are mightily tangled; administrations and Congress have been fighting over the power to start wars for the whole of US history.
But this argument is completely absurd. It makes one suspect that the proponents consider democracy a bureaucratic inconvenience.

Airport security, protecting us all

At Denver International Airport last week, an enthusiastic security
guard trainee decided that she needed to manually verify my assertion
that the metal-detector wand is triggered by brassiere underwires.
After confirming this fact, I was allowed to pass through security and
board the airplane, still wearing the suspicious bra. Airline security
staff are clearly not being sufficiently vigilant against the threat of
rows of zaftig passengers rising up to garrote the crew with their
On the other hand, the airline had no trouble sending my suitcase to
Austin one flight ahead of me.

The villain’s in the mirror

The music industry’s problems are caused by the changing needs and
tastes of customers, as reported by this informative story in Slate.
Industry mistakes include:
* Believing in teen idols. Buyers over the age of 40 account for
44 percent of the CD sales, up from 19.6 percent in 1992,
according to a recent RIAA survey. Older listeners have diverse
tastes, and it’s harder to reach a fragmented market. So the music
industry keeps trying to manufacture teen stars with mass
popularity, even though Britney’s audience is shrinking.
* Offering one color, as long as it’s black. Successful industries
differentiate products. Yet the music industry focuses on mass
distribution of a single product, at single level of quality.
* Blaming technological threat while ignoring customer boredom.
The last big lull in music sales occured in the 70s, when cassette
tapes were taking off. The industry blamed plastic. Then punk and
new wave killed disco, and sales rose again.

NYT: Language Gene Traced to Emergence of Humans

Scientist dates a speech-enabling gene to about 100,000 years ago; evidence of culture starts about 50,000 years ago.
And here’s a link to a Nature story last fall about the discovery of the the FOXP2 gene, which enables fine control over the muscles of the mouth and throat.
As always, the science is more subtle than the reports in the popular press. There’s a lot of ongoing research and debate about how and how much the gene influences the ability to speak and understand language.

A good sign

On Monday, Declan McCullough wrote a defeatist essay in CNET encouraging technologists not to bother opposing bad laws, and to stay home and write clever code.
In the ensuing Slashdot discussion, the audience roundly disagreed with Declan and argued that geeks need to be political to keep and take back freedoms lost to bad laws like the DMCA.
The tone of of the SlashDot discussion was very different from the libertarian dogma several years ago and the level of knowledge about the political process seemed a lot higher.
It took 10 years after Rachel Carson published Silent Spring in 1962 for Congress to ban DDT. Time will tell if enough people will speak up in our time.