Posted by: Tony Carson | 17 September, 2007

Do the Saudi have a military?

The Saudi Arabians seem to be buying an awful lot of military hardware these days.

A month ago, the US announced it was selling (or was it giving, it was never clear) a $billion or two to the Saudis in a deal that would give $billions to everyone else in the Middle East, too, except the Palestinians.

Today, the BBC tells us that the Saudis are to buy 72 Eurofighter Typhoon jets from the British.

But a question: does Saudi Arabia actually have a military? Like, of its own. And who does it recruit? Philippinos and Pakistanis? Because it is really hard to imagine a pure-bred Saudi as a grunt. They are above that, aren’t they? They don’t do work, the imports do that. And anyway, they shouldn’t have to work, they’re all princes or sheiks and stuff.

So why are they loading up with all these tools or war? And who are their enemies? And why would they need weapons when the have the Americans who will do anything to protect the country that fuels the US economy?

There is probably an easy explanation for all this buying. I’m thinking that the princes are getting tired of video games and want to try the real thing, like maybe a desert tank tilt or a Dubai dog-fight at 1,200 feet, you know, something to blow off a little steam while having a little harmless fun.

Still, it is a little troubling. I mean, what happens if these guys take to these high-tech war games? Might they not go looking for some greater action? Couldn’t their playfulness, like, escalate?

We should monitor this. If the BBC tells us next month that the Saudis are replacing their Patriot missiles with the Cruise kind, well, maybe we should start paying more attention.

Good fun is good fun, but it can get out of hand.



  1. I do hope you’re just joking here.

    While the Saudis do not have an armed force equal in size to Iran or pre-invasion Iraq, they do have one that provides a limited degree of protection to the country and its oil facilities.

    Saudi land forces acquitted themselves well in the Battle of Khafji during Desert Storm. Their Air Force and Navy are well-regarded by outside observers.

    The Army and National Guard are staffed primarily by Saudis–and tribal Saudis take great honor in serving in the military.

    You’re right that the middle and upper classes do not hold the military in high regard, but that’s primarily because they see better options for themselves and their children. I think you’ll find exactly the same dynamic in most of the western world.

    Do you see a lot of university professors who are veterans? Do you find their kids enlisting in large numbers? Lots of celebrities’ kids are serving, too, right?

    If you’re actually interested in the capabilities of the Saudi military, you might take a look at National Security in Saudi Arabia: Threats, Responses, and Challenges. It has facts, not throw-away lines.

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