Saturday, May 2, 2015

The Arabs are almost strong enough to conquer Western Europe

The Roman Empire existed for some 1000 years before it fell. Modern Europe has dominated the world for far less time, perhaps since the reconquest of Spain and discovery of America in 1492: about 500 years. Since 1945, Europe has been weaker, but it has continued to exercise massive influence over the world.
The fall of Rome was not something one could have easily predicted.  Standards of living in Rome far exceeded anything that could be found in its neighbours. Roman army barracks on the borders had piped running water, fountains, baths with underfloor heating.  Slavery had been ended. All Romans were citizens.  And yet the Romans were no longer able to repulse invasions and their armies had become reliant on non-Roman troops and ineffective.

The Ancient Egyptian pharaonic kingdoms were undefeated for even longer than the Romans: some 2,000 years.  However it would appear that sometime in around 1600 BCE a group of tribes, possibly from Canaan successfully and unexpectedly conquered Egypt.

Western Europe is far more vulnerable than would appear from pure economic data. While it dominates the global economy and exercises massive influence everywhere, Western Europe has systematically neglected its military and simply relies on the USA to protect it from the outside.

To make this point, I have taken the four largest military powers in Western Europe and compared them to four large Arab states (all Sunni except Syria which has a Sunni majority), using data from the globalfirepower website.
I have not included Iran which is not Arab but has massive military power. Were Syria and Iraq to be combined they would be a formidable power and there are no European countries (except Russia) which can rival these countries in military terms. Turkey is arguably more powerful than any of the countries listed below but is Islamic and in NATO, so in a sense it keeps the balance of power.

For comparison purposes I have added Israel, which is almost as strong as Turkey (not in active military forces).

What you can see is that on land the balance is clearly shifting in favour of the Arabs.

GermanyFranceBritainItalyEurope 4IsraelArab 4AlgeriaEgyptSyriaSaudi Arabia
Soldiers (active) in thousands1802021463208481601391512468178233
Soldiers (reserve) in thousands1801958242499630179540080057025
Missile systems504442211574826011481481650322
Combat Planes29754024927013564841730188811340391
Combat Helicopters344665592044811735362818
aircraft carriers00123000000

What is missing in this chart is nuclear power which is a potential game breaker and economic power, with its implied military potential where Europe is more powerful than anyone.
Even so, it does show just how limited European military power is and that, if this trend continues, Europe could become vulnerable particularly if it loses its USA backing and its (possibly quite small) nuclear option is neutralized in some way.

If you think Europe can easily power-up then bear in mind that it takes a lot of time to train military personnel - especially commanders - and that the skills and know-how associated with warfare are gradually being lost.


  1. To be honest, the idea of countries like Syria and Iraq being able to invade Europe just strikes me as completely fictional, even if we don't take nuclear weapons into account.

    Apart from the fact that those countries have now fallen apart, but even before all that happened, the idea that they could seriously threaten Europe (not with terrorist attacks, but with an actual invasion) seems to me quite ludicrous.

    The truth is that the Arab countries are just too backward. It's not a simple matter of military strength. European countries may not focus much on their armies, but they are still among the world's most advanced and rich nations, and the moment any one of them were hypothetically threatened by a Syrian or Egyptian invasion, they would all pull together. They could probably put a decent army in place amazingly fast if they really put their mind to it. What's more the US would surely step in and protect them in such an event. And the US still has military bases in Italy and Germany.

    I really wouldn't worry, and I say this coming from Italy, which would geographically be on the front line of such an invasion.It 's true that the Roman empire was defeated by much weaker neighbours, but that was a very different time. The Arabs are far too busy worrying about their own problems, and when they do direct any aggression towards outsiders, it's against Iran or Israel (which is unfortunate for Israelis of course).

  2. I have nothing against the Arabs! But I do not believe that they are a force to conquer Europe. I do not believe these numbers, induced in the article, and if they are true, they still do not frighten us. What the Arabs invented besides carpets, coffee and chess - nothing more. They do not have strong intellectual potential for the conquest of Europe.
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