Why do Arab soldiers only fight well when they are religious fanatics?

There was an unintentionally funny article about the Iraqi army at Yahoo News.  The Iraqi army is slowly advancing on Mosul in Northern Iraq, but they are stymied by a handful of Islamic State bandits:

It took up to 10 days for Iraqi troops to move a few hundred meters (yards) and retake the neighborhood of al-Barid, a district of grand, upscale homes where fruit trees grow in the gardens.

There were only a few IS fighters in the neighborhood, but they were able to hold back the much larger Iraqi force because they were faster and more nimble than the slow-moving convoys of hundreds of troops, said Hatem al-Kurdi, one of the residents who remained in the district throughout the fight.

The militants "cut holes in the walls between the homes so they could always be moving from one position to another," al-Kurdi said.

For every few hundred meters of their territory, the IS militants allocate as few as four to five fighters, along with a handful of car bombs, to fight to the death, said Iraqi special forces Maj. Firas Mehdi. It is the same formula of counterattacks and defenses he has seen in every neighborhood he enters, he said.

If Iraq's military continues at the current pace, they may retake Mosul in the coming months....

Or maybe years.  Ten days to move a few hundred yards?  With overwhelming numerical superiority?  Against a handful of bandits?  With complete air support?

This is the army we spent hundreds of billions of dollars training and arming.  Like the Afghan army, it seems incapable of fighting on its own.

But ISIS doesn't have this problem.  Neither does the Taliban.  It seems that when Arab soldiers are religious fanatics, they suddenly became brave warriors who will hike two hundred miles through impassible mountains just to lie in wait to get a shot at the enemy.  But when Arab soldiers are ordinary conscripts, they have to fight hard just to advance a few feet a day.

Egyptian Army prisoners surrendering to Israeli forces in the Six-Day War (YouTube screengrab via The Times of Israel)

American soldiers are not like this, of course.  But like the Taliban, American soldiers strongly believe in something – only instead of believing in slavery and death, American soldiers believe in freedom and human rights and, of course, our nation-state.  Most Arab soldiers in traditional nation-state armies don't seem to strongly believe in anything.  That's why most Arab armies have the consistency of wet falafel.  That's why we can pour billions into building up the Iraqi or Afghan army only to see it collapse the minute we leave.  (Yes, Afghans aren't Arabs.  But it's the same principle.  Afghans don't believe in their own nation-state.)

If only Arab armies could have a motivation that made them good soldiers without also making them terrible human beings.

Ed Straker is the senior writer at NewsMachete.com.

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