Tag Archives: Israel

Looking at History through US Foreign Military Sales

If an alien came to Earth and had to quickly make sense of the last half century of History, he could get a first glimpse of geographical hot spots and changes of regime by looking at US Foreign Military Sales program data (please refer to my previous post for an explanation of the program and sources of data).

For example, take the figure below. It shows the historical data of FMS deliveries (in thousands of $) from 1970 to 2010. As you can see deliveries stopped in 1980. What is even more telling, in the 4 years to 1979 (from 1976-79) the arms sales delivered to this country represented a whole 34% of the complete US FMS program over that period (see the total volume of deliveries in this graphic from a previous post). Which country do you think it coud be?

Which country could this be?

This alien, combining these data would know that something that happened in that country, from representing a third of military sales to not taking part in the program ever again… you may have guessed right: Iran, where the Islamic Revolution started in 1978, the Shah left the country in 1979 and at the end of that year the hostage crisis started.

Having taken a look at the graphic of Iran, find below the one for Iraq:


In the graphic you can see that from 1970 to 2005 there were not FMS agreements and deliveries from 2006. Nevertheless you can see that during the 1970’s and 1980’s there were commercial arms sales to Iraq from American contractors (this is also published by DSCA), which deliveries stopped altogether in 1990 (invasion of Kuwait in August 1990 and subsequent first Gulf war). Then, once the second Gulf war had changed the regime, commercial and FMS sales restarted from 2003.

There are plenty of cases to look at: Cuba not forming part of FMS since before 1970, Russia neither (though receiving commercial arms since 1992), Spain having been always part of FMS program (including during dictator Franco’s time) but which agreements surged in 1982 with the order of 72 McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 fighters (the same year in which it joined NATO), Chile, Venezuela, China

Russia: never part of FMS.

Before concluding this post let me show again the distribution of FMS deliveries during the last 60 years per region (shown in the previous post) and a table with the main receivers in each region:

FMS Sales per region (1950-2010, source: DSCA).

FMS Agreements per region and selected countries (1950-2010, in k$ – source: DSCA).

Which have been then the top receivers of FMS Arms sales agreements in the period 1950-2010? In order:

  1. Saudi Arabia (16.9% of global FMS program)
  2. Egypt (7.3%)
  3. Israel (7.1%)
  4. Australia (4.1%)
  5. Korea (South) (4.0%)
  6. United Kingdom (4.0%)
  7. Turkey (4.0%)
  8. Japan (3.7%)
  9. Germany (3.3%)
  10. Greece (2.7%)

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Start-up Nation

Coming back from a trip to the USA, my brother gave me the book “Start-up Nation: The Story of Israel’s Economic Miracle”, by D. Senor and S. Singer [242 pages].

Start-up Nation, by D. Senor and S. Singer

The authors try to offer some hindsight and plausible explanations behind the fact of Israel being such an enterprising nation, which can be measured by the number of technological companies it has, the proportion of Israeli companies listed in NASDAQ as compared to other larger countries, its tremendous GDP growth since its creation, the VC investment per capita (above 250$, x2 times than second country in the list, USA) or the civilian R&D expenditure (4.5% of GDP).

They analyze different issues throughout the chapters of the book: questioning of hierarchical orders, assertiveness (what they call chutzpah), responsibilities handled while in military service, technical training at the military, creation of clusters, etc. Some of these aspects could be learnt and applied to other countries and that it’s why I would recommend the book. Some others may lie behind Israel’s special situation and politics, and thus not easily transferable.

What struck me the most is the large influence awarded in the book to the role of the military. Let me summarize some of the ideas:

  • There are several elite corps in the Isreal Defense force. Not only military service is compulsory (except for the haredim or the ultra-orthodox), but apparently the military does a long-term forward screening of next waves of recruits. They have interviews with them, they have access to their academic merits in high school, so they get to select the best qualified for certain corps, this in turn is also a recognition for the “candidates”.
  • These elite corps offer a highly valued training and experience (see the Talpiot program). Training in a broad variety of subjects from technology to logistics, very valuable for a future career. The Israeli Defense Force also counts with a very low ratio of high officers, thus delegating much of the responsibility for decisions (sometimes life or death ones) to young officers.
  • Once finished with the military service and university studies (45% of Israelis attended university), companies recruiting future candidates give not so much weight to academic merits in the university but to the military unit of precedence and the experience the candidate obtained during those years of service.
  • Democratization offered by military: since the service is compulsory it continuous to offer Israelis exposure to people from different backgrounds.
  • Life-long reserve service: once they have finished the service and go to pursue a civilian life they are still part of the reserve. In Israel, this means gathering every year for up to a month to train or perform active duty if the country is at war. This creates strong bonds between people from the same units (imagine having not a diner of ’81 class every second year, but 4 weeks every year). As they grow older, they do have a close contact with people in every rank of society. They’re truly no more than 2 or 3 degrees of separation to one another in the whole of Israel.

It is definitely an interesting book to reflect on many issues and take some ideas that can be transferable to other situations than that of Israel.


Filed under Books