Book Review: The Evolution of the Armed Forces of the United Arab Emirates


by Athol Yates

Warwick, Eng.: Helion / Philadelphia: Casemate, 2020. Pp. xviii, 362. Maps, tables, diagr., notes, biblio., index. $69.95 paper. ISBN: 1912866005

Creating the Emirates’ Military Institutions

Like other publications in Helion’s Modern Military History Series, Yates’ book treats its subject with encyclopedic scope, combining the critical contexts of local and regional history, geography, and internal demographic dynamics with thoughtful analysis of the UAE’s armed forces and security organizations.

The author’s documented examination of UAE military capabilities and diplomatic-military policy is timely. In the past 15 years, the UAE has “punched above its weight,” playing an active diplomatic and military role in the Persian Gulf, in Yemen’s nest of wars, in North Africa (Libya), and in East Africa as well. UAE foreign policy matters.

The book details the UAE’s complex governing system. Though it retains feudal elements, UAE governance is flexible and dedicated to nation building based on thoughtful, long-range economic and political policies.

Fielding a modern joint military force is a major element of the UAE’s nation-building program. I found Yates’ fourth chapter, Missions, particularly relevant. The UAE’s Armed Forces have five core missions:

  • · defending territory and sovereignty;
  • · protecting the ruling emirs and their families;
  • · bolstering internal security; 
  • · contributing to nation building (particularly as a socialization mechanism establishing national values and identity); and
  • · supporting foreign policy objectives.

Yates’ list is also revealing.

It sketches the evolution of UAE security organizations, from local emirate militias tasked with defending uncertain land borders and protecting their respective royal families, to an instrument of state formation and, today, an instrument of power projection.

UAE forces possess advanced weapons and equipment – the Emirates have the petrodollar budget to buy them. A modern military, however, requires educated personnel trained to use the weapon systems effectively. Since the 1970s the government has focused on educating Emirati citizens, for many reasons, but creating a citizen-manned military in preference to expatriates was a key goal. Education standards have dramatically improved. Women serve in UAE military organizations (Yates estimates about three percent of the Armed Forces are female). However, the UAE faces military personnel challenges. Yates estimates the “current force consists of 65,000 Emiratis” out of a total of 225,000 Emiratis in the workforce. The math indicates 28 percent of the citizen labor force serves in the military. Though another 400,000 Emiratis will be entering the labor pool during the 2020s, Yates notes the military demand could lead to “a drain on human resources” in the UAE’s other economic and social sectors.


~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~


Our Reviewer: Austin Bay has a doctorate from Columbia University, and is an Army War College graduate. A novelist and historian, he is an Associate Editor of StrategyPage and a syndicated columnist, and his commentaries have appeared on National Public Radio's “Morning Edition”. He has worked as a special consultant in the Office of the Secretary of Defense. A colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve, he is a veteran of the Gulf War of 1990-1991, and although retired, was recalled to active duty in 2004 and served in Iraq with US Army III Corps (Multi-National Corps--Iraq). His past reviews include Chinese Communist Espionage: An Intelligence Primer, The 4th Marine Brigade at Belleau Wood and Soissons: History and Battlefield Guide, and Lessons Unlearned: The U.S. Army's Role in Creating the Forever Wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.




Note: The Evolution of the Armed Force of the United Arab Emirates is also available in several e-editions.


StrategyPage reviews are published in cooperation with The New York Military Affairs Symposium (

Reviewer: Austin Bay   

Buy it at



Help Keep Us Soaring

We need your help! Our subscription base has slowly been dwindling. We need your help in reversing that trend. We would like to add 20 new subscribers this month.

Each month we count on your subscriptions or contributions. You can support us in the following ways:

  1. Make sure you spread the word about us. Two ways to do that are to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
  2. Subscribe to our daily newsletter. We’ll send the news to your email box, and you don’t have to come to the site unless you want to read columns or see photos.
  3. You can contribute to the health of StrategyPage. A contribution is not a donation that you can deduct at tax time, but a form of crowdfunding. We store none of your information when you contribute..
Subscribe   Contribute   Close