Warriors of Desert Winds

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    This is the army of Lawrence of Arabia. It has gallantly defended the interests of the Kingdom of Jordan for a century. It is not a nationalist army. Rather it is an old-fashioned dynastic army and as such seems out of place in the modern world.

    The Hashemite dynasty is the ruling power over Jordan. In a way it is a Government in Exile. The Hashemites (or House of Hashem) were among the losers in a three-way power struggle in what is now Saudi Arabia between the House of Saud, the House of Rashid, and the Hashemites (The winner was the House of Saud, led by Abdul Aziz Ibn Saud who was sort of a Bedouin Magnificent Bastard). During World War I, the Hashemites took the British side, leading a revolt of the Arab tribes against the Ottoman Empire and recruiting a fair number of more sedentary Arabs in the process. The Brits promised the head of the family, Hussein bin Ali, that he would be king of all the Arab lands east of Egypt (modern Syria, Jordan, Palestine, Lebanon, Iraq, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia, plus Bahrain, Qatar, the UAE, Oman, and much of Yemen if he could win them). However, the British had also promised a homeland in Palestine for the Jews and had secretly planned to split the Middle East with France. As a result, Hussein got nothing (and was kicked out of his stronghold of Mecca by Abdulaziz bin Saud), but his sons, Abdullah and Faisal, were both given rule over British mandates; Faisal originally tried to rule all of "greater Syria" (Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, and Jordan), but the French kicked him out of Damascus and Palestine was a mess, so the British put him on the Iraqi throne. His older brother Abdullah was assigned Jordan (at the time, Transjordan) as his measly share of the Plunder. As it turned out, Jordan is today the only Hashemite kingdom left, ruled by Abdullah's great-grandson King Abdullah II. The memoirs of a certain liaison officer who served with Abdullah, Faisal, and their troops during the Arab Revolt managed to be made into a movie.

    During this time it was necessary for there to be a force to enforce the Hashemite King's (and Britain's, not so coincidentally) interests in the desert. The British officer John Glubb took on the job of organizing what was called the Arab Legion out of Bedouin recruits. Now making warriors out of Bedouin is easy; they lived in the desert, regarded camel-rustling as their national sport and were even more tough and ornery than their camels. Making soldiers -- people who will work as a team and obey the chain of command even if it is unfortunately occupied by an Obstructive Bureaucrat -- is much harder. It required convincing them to relax or reinterpret their pride and to in a small degree, put reason before honor. John Glubb was however able to do this without hurting the tough survival skills that made the Bedouin such good material in the first place.

    Between the wars the Arab Legion kept the peace in the desert. When World War II broke out the Arab Legion continued to do this and to watch the back of The British Empire. It also took part in a small campaign to conquer Syria, then held by Vichy France (Vichyites were everyone's Chew Toy and got regularly beat up primarily for being in the way). Ironically, in this campaign they were fighting on the same side as the Yishuv: this was where Moshe Dayan received his Eyepatch of Power.

    In 1948, local ethnic troubles between Jews and Arabs in the British Mandate of Palestine became the Arab-Israeli Conflict. During this the Jordanian Army acquitted itself well in the streets of Jerusalem, despite the fact that it was effectively fighting the entire population of Jewish (i.e. West) Jerusalem. They were the only Arab army to make a creditable performance in that war. In the Six-day war they were tested again, against an Israeli army which had had time to improve. While they fought well, they lost (the Israelis having previously annihilated the entire Jordanian Air Force) and large parts of the Kingdom of Jordan became Plunder.

    After the Six-Day War the Jordanian forces were seldom tested. They suppressed a revolt by the Palestinians. And they sent a nominal force to fight in the Yom Kippur War. But they continue to stand ready to fight for Jordan and their king to this day.

    Warriors of Desert Winds provides examples of the following tropes:
    • A Father to His Men: John Glubb was nicknamed "Father of the little chin" by his Bedouin soldiers.
    • Always Gets His Man: The Arab Legion kept the peace in the area between the world wars.
    • Arab-Israeli Conflict
    • Almost Badass Army : One must be thrifty about ascribing the term Badass otherwise it won't mean anything. However this is an army that stood against Israel, indeed the only Arab army to last into a stalemate in the '48. And that is not anything to sneeze at.
    • Bedouin Rescue Service
    • Born in the Wrong Century: The Jordanian Army is really a dynastic army of the sort raised in the eighteenth century rather then a national one. It enforces the rule of the Hashemite tribe, which is fairly decent for the area.
    • By-The-Book Cop: In most Arab countries, the army doubles as Secret Police. Not so much in Jordan.
    • Cool Tank: They operate 392 Challenger I tanks, second-hand from the Brits With Battleships.
    • Determinator: The '48 Siege of Jerusalem was a mutual exercise in determination.
    • Friendly Enemy: You will have to search long and hard to find a Jordanian who admits he is any kind of friend to Israel, but they kind of, sort of understand one another. YMMV, of course.
      • They also have some shared interests, including worrying about the more "difficult" folk in the Middle East.
    • Going Native: John Glubb and Lawrence before that.
    • Iron Woobie: Jordan always seems to have come out unlucky in power-struggles starting with the expulsion of the Hashemites from Saudi-Arabia and moveing onwards. Yet somehow it survives with dignity.
    • The Kingdom: Jordan
    • Last Stand: Not quite. They did surrender after all; they were professionals and knew when Honor was satisfied. But the storming of Jerusalem in '67 has elements of this.
    • My Master, Right or Wrong: the service of the Hashemites. YMMV, depending on what you think of the Hashemites.
    • Proud Warrior Race: Bedouin
    • Royals Who Actually Do Something: During the Six-day war Hussein was unusual among VIP s in actually coming near the fighting personally.
    • Sacred Hospitality: Jordan was one of the few countries to shelter Palestinian refugees after 1948. Despite being a poor country with no oil.
    • The City Narrows: Jerusalem like many Middle Eastern cities is like a maze.
    • Undying Loyalty: To the crown.
    • Urban Warfare: Jerusalem in 1948 and 1967. The Arab Legion was used to deserts but untrained for this and fighting a highly motivated enemy
    • We Help the Helpless: One of the most praiseworthy things the Jordanian army has done was to protect peaceful shepherds and farmers from brigands.
    • Worthy Opponent: After the storming of Jerusalem in 1967, the IDF set up a monument to the dead of the Jordanian Army

    In Fiction:


    • Cast A Giant Shadow : As the enemy.
    • Exodus: Almost but not quite. The movie ends before the intervention of Arab states in the 1948 war.


    • The Hope by Hermann Wouk.