The Conflict in Comparative Perspective

  • Oliver Ramsbotham
Part of the St Antony’s book series

Abstract

Any attempt to interpret interpretations of great events confronts the difficulty of distinguishing event from interpretation — in this case the Gulf Conflict of 1990–91 from differing perspectives on it. The problem is defined within two limits, both at the extreme considered unsatisfactory by most commentators. The first is the conclusion that interpretations are no more than epiphenomena — of history (such as precipitations of inherited tradition), sociology (determinations of culture or power), individual and social psychology (symptoms of the pathology of misperception), political science (rationalizations of interest). The second is the conclusion that there is no central event independent of them. The first may lead to various forms of reductionism or relativism, the second to general mystification — like Jean Baudrillard’s notorious conclusion that ‘The Gulf War Has Not Taken Place’.1

Keywords

Europe Income Syria Assimilation Turkey 

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Notes

  1. 2.
    Phillip Knightley, The Guardian, (4 March 1991). See also Noam Chomsky, Manufacturing Consent, (London: Pantheon Books, 1988).Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    Edward Luttwak, ‘Victory Through Airpower’, Commentary,, (August 1991) pp. 27–30.Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    John Keegan, Daily Telegraph, (1 March 1991)Google Scholar
  4. 7.
    James Laue and Gerald Cormack, ‘The Ethics of Intervention in Community Disputes’, in Ethics of Social Intervention, Gordon Bermant, Herbert Kelman, and Donald Warwick (eds), (New Yoik: John Wiley, 1978) pp. 205–32.Google Scholar
  5. K. Webb, ‘The Morality of Mediation’ in New Approaches to International Mediation, C.R. Mitchell and K. Webb (eds), (New York: Greenwood Press, 1988) pp. 16–28.Google Scholar
  6. 8.
    Evan Thomas, ‘The Reluctant Warrior’, Newsweek, (13 May 1991), p. 19; Bob Woodward, The Commanders, (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1991).Google Scholar
  7. 9.
    Lawrence Freedman and Efraim Karsh, ‘How Kuwait was Won: Strategy in the Gulf War’, International Security 16 (1991) pp. 5–41.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 11.
    Marc Bonnefois, ‘Golfe 1991: essai d’interpretations’, Défense Nationale (Mai 1991) pp. 59–66.Google Scholar
  9. 12.
    Thomas Kielinger, ‘The Gulf War and the Consequences from a German Point of View’, Aussenpolitik, 42 (1991) pp. 241–50.Google Scholar
  10. 13.
    Graham Fuller, ‘Moscow and the Gulf War’, Foreign Affairs, (1991) pp. 55–76; Olga Alexandrovna, ‘Soviet Policy in the Gulf Conflict’, Aussenpolitik, 42 (1991) pp. 231–40.Google Scholar
  11. 14.
    Ito Kenichi, ‘The Japanese State of Mind: Deliberations on the Gulf Crisis’, The Journal of Japanese Studies 17 (1991) pp. 275–90; Inoguchi Takashi, ‘Japan’s Response to the Gulf Crisis: an Analytic Overview’, ibid., pp. 257–73; Masaru Tamamoto, ‘Japan’s Debate over the Gulf Crisis’, World Policy Journal, (1990/1) pp. 89–106.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 15.
    Yahya Sadowski, ‘Revolution, Reform or Regression? Arab Political Options in the 1990 Gulf Crisis’, The Brookings Review (1990/1), pp. 17–21.Google Scholar
  13. Yahya Sadowski, ‘Revolution, Reform or Regression? Arab Political Options in the 1990 Gulf Crisis’, The Brookings Review (1990/1), pp. 17–21; Richard Herrmann, ‘The Middle East and the New World Order’, international Security 16 (1991) pp. 42–75.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 16.
    Norman Cigar, ‘Iraq’s Strategic Mindset and the Gulf War: Blueprint for Defeat’, Journal of Strategic Studies 15 (1992) pp. 1–29.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Norman Cigar, ‘Iraq’s Strategic Mindset and the Gulf War: Blueprint for Defeat’, Journal of Strategic Studies 15 (1992) pp. 1–29; John Bulloch and Harvey Morris, Saddam’s War, (London: Faber & Faber, 1991).Google Scholar
  16. 17.
    Abderrahmane Bensid, ‘The Maghreb and the Gulf Crisis’, American-Arab Affairs, 35 (1990–1) pp. 27–32.Google Scholar
  17. 18.
    Fouad Ajami, ‘The Summer of Arab Discontent’, Foreign Affairs, (1990/1) pp. 1–20.Google Scholar
  18. 28.
    Address to the nation, (16 January 1991) in Brian MacArthur (ed.) Despatches from the Gulf War (London: Bloomsbury, 1991) pp. 49–52.Google Scholar
  19. 30.
    Text of interview, Phyllis Bennis and Michel Moushabeck (eds), Beyond the Storm (London: Canongate, 1992) pp. 391–6.Google Scholar
  20. 33.
    Hans Morgenthau, Politics Among Nations, 4th edn, (New York: Knopf, 1967) pp. 83–4.Google Scholar
  21. 34.
    Michael Walzer, Just and Unjust Wars, 2nd edn, (London: Basic Books, 1992) p. 20. Note also in this context Reinhold Niebuhr’s ‘ethical paradox of patriotism’ which ‘transmutes individual unselfishness into national egoism’, Moral Man and Immoral Society: a Study in Ethics and Politics, (New York: Charles Scribner, 1932) p. 91, quoted in Jack Donnelly, ‘Twentieth Century Realism’, in Terry Nardin and David Mapel (eds) Traditions of International Ethics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992) pp. 85–111.Google Scholar
  22. 35.
    Morgenthau, pp. 83–4. But note Morgenthau’s reference elsewhere to the ‘moral principle of national survival’. Having referred to what he calls this classical realist ‘ethic of national interest’, Jack Donnelly regrets that ‘structural realists do not even bother with morality’. In fact this is belied by the ethical tone which imbues the last part of Kenneth Waltz’s Theory of International Politics (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1979), the locus classicus for neo-realist theory — particularly from p. 199, where he deals with ways in which ‘the US can justify her actions abroad’. Whatever the description at ‘macro’ level, policy recommendations at ‘micro’ level are justified in ethical terms. See also George Weigel on the dialectical relationship between the ‘is’ of ‘national interest’ and the ‘ought’ of ‘national purpose’ — and the importance of avoiding ‘crackpot realism’ on the one hand and ‘utopianism’ on the other, ‘The National Interest and the National Purpose’, This World, (1987).Google Scholar
  23. 36.
    James Piscatori, (ed.), Islamic Fundamentalisms and the Gulf Crisis, (Chicago: American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 1991) p. 215.Google Scholar
  24. 39.
    Stephen Lewis, Canadian ambassador to the UN, interview, World Policy Journal (Summer 1991) pp. 539–49.Google Scholar
  25. J.K. Galbraith, ‘The Call of Arms and the Poor Man’, The Guardian (27 March 1991).Google Scholar
  26. 40.
    Richard Falk, ‘Reflections on Democracy and the Gulf War’, Alternatives, 16 (1991) pp. 263–74.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. 41.
    Theo Sommer, ‘A World Beyond Order and Control’, The Guardian (13 April 1991).Google Scholar
  28. 44.
    Noam Chomsky, ‘The Weak Shall Inherit Nothing’, The Guardian (25 March 1991).Google Scholar
  29. 45.
    Paul Rogers and Malcolm Dando, A Violent Peace; Global Security After the Cold War, (London: Brassey’s, 1992).Google Scholar
  30. 48.
    Christopher Norris, Uncritical Theory: Postmodernism, Intellectuals and the Gulf War, (London: Lawrence & Wishart, 1992) p. 110.Google Scholar
  31. 51.
    This classification is taken from Oliver Ramsbotham and Hugh Miall, Beyond Deterrence, (London: Macmillan, 1990) pp. 68–79. The terms ‘realist’ and ‘transformationist’ are not to be taken paradigmatically. They refer to the level of party political debate. Much of the party political ‘realist-transformationist’ debate takes place within an overall realist paradigm.Google Scholar
  32. 55.
    See Kenneth Boulding, Three Faces of Power, (London: Sage, 1989).Google Scholar
  33. 56.
    Stuart Hampshire, Innocence and Experience, (London: Allen Lane, The Penguin Press, 1990).Google Scholar
  34. 57.
    As such, they may be seen to relate to what Dorothy Jones calls ‘The Declaratory Tradition in Modem International Law’, in Nardin and Mapel, pp. 42–61. The case made out in this paragraph is vigorously contested both by ‘realists’ like Charles Krauthammer and by ‘transformationists’ like Phyllis Bennis, who, despite disagreeing profoundly in their own interpretations of the Gulf Conflict, agree in denying a significant United Nations role in the crisis on the grounds that the United Nations can ‘hardly be said to exist except in a formal sense’ (Krauthammer) and it was the ‘raw power* of the United States that dictated the outcome (Bennis). Charles Krauthammer, ‘The Unipolar Moment’, Foreign Affairs 70, (1991) pp. 23– 33; Phyllis Bennis, ‘False Consensus: George Bush’s United Nations’, Beyond the Stormy pp. 112–13.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  • Oliver Ramsbotham

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations