[Marxism] Fwd: H-Net Review [H-War]: Asaadi on Razoux, 'The Iran-Iraq War'

hasc.warrior.stew at gmail.com hasc.warrior.stew at gmail.com
Sun Aug 7 10:06:04 MDT 2016

Best regards,
Andrew Stewart 

Begin forwarded message:

> From: H-Net Staff <revhelp at mail.h-net.msu.edu>
> Date: August 7, 2016 at 11:34:55 AM EDT
> Subject: H-Net Review [H-War]:  Asaadi on Razoux, 'The Iran-Iraq War'
> Reply-To: H-Net Staff <revhelp at mail.h-net.msu.edu>
> Pierre Razoux.  The Iran-Iraq War.  Translated by Nicholas Elliott.
> Cambridge  Belknap Press, 2015.  Illustrations. xviii + 640 pp.
> $39.95 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-674-08863-4.
> Reviewed by Robert Asaadi (University of Minnesota)
> Published on H-War (August, 2016)
> Commissioned by Margaret Sankey
> Pierre Razoux's The Iran-Iraq War ambitiously sets out to address
> what the author frames as the unanswered questions of the Iran-Iraq
> War. These can be classified into two primary categories: cause and
> duration. First, the book is concerned with understanding the cause
> of the war. Causal analysis of war is perhaps the oldest and most
> robust field of inquiry in International Relations, with scholars
> taking Thucydides's analysis of the causes of the Pelopennesian War
> as one of the discipline's foundational texts. While the book does an
> excellent job highlighting the motives and interests of the
> belligerent states, particularly in the Iraqi case, it would have
> benefited from a more sustained treatment of the remote causes, or
> structural factors, that gave rise to the particular domestic
> political actors that occupy a position of prominence as the movers
> of history in Razoux's analysis.
> This prioritization of immediate causes over remote causes mirrors
> the tendency among some social scientists who embrace either a
> strictly rationalist epistemological approach or a thin
> constructivist approach which prioritizes agency over structure. War,
> as is the case with other forms of collective violence, necessarily
> involves both the strategic calculus of influential actors and the
> constraining and enabling effects of the already existing social and
> political structures in which these actors are situated. A
> shortcoming in Razoux's analysis is that he overestimates the degree
> to which these actors, as either opportunists, power-maximizers, or
> revolutionary ideologists, were the makers of their own history, and
> he underestimates or ignores the deeper structural conditions that
> functioned as the conditions of possibility for the emergence of
> these actors in the first instance. For example, the book's third
> chapter "How Did It Come to This?" sets out to show that "the
> Iran-Iraq War resulted first and foremost from the desire for
> confrontation of two men with conflicting ambitions, Saddam Hussein
> and Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini." These leaders, according to Razoux,
> were then able to mobilize Iraqi and Iranian society to war because
> of their societies' latent ancient hatreds and, as he puts it, their
> "ancestral rivalry" (p. 45). In a mere twenty-two pages in this
> chapter, Razoux somewhat clumsily reconstructs the history of the
> region from the early sixteenth century to the onset of the Iran-Iraq
> War. This partial analysis is ultimately unpersuasive as an appraisal
> of the structural factors that instead needed to be considered in
> greater depth when asking what caused the Iran-Iraq War. Furthermore,
> the repetition of the Orientalist trope of primordialism as a causal
> motivation for war seems misplaced in his otherwise well-measured
> analysis.
> The book's second question aims to explain the war's duration. Why
> did this bloody and costly war last eight years, making it the
> longest war of the twentieth century? In contrast to the somewhat
> banal observation that the war was caused by leaders who wanted it,
> the book's explanation for the war's duration is given much more
> sustained analysis and cuts across the three images of analysis of
> international politics (individual, state, and international). Razoux
> effectively outlines how the logic of Cold War balancing and the
> simple profit motive of arms manufacturers alongside regional balance
> of power dynamics and the domestic political peculiarities of Iran
> and Iraq coalesced to perpetuate the hostilities. Appendix F,
> "Foreign Military Assistance," is particularly instructive in this
> regard, as it catalogues the specific forms and amounts of military
> assistance both Iran and Iraq received throughout the course of the
> war, which helped sustain the conflict.
> Overall, the book is a significant contribution to the existing
> scholarly literature on its subject for several reasons. First,
> Razoux's meticulous archival research gathers and organizes a copious
> amount of primary source data. For example, the book provides a
> systematic accounting of Iranian and Iraqi military personnel and
> assets. Particularly in its incorporation of audio transcripts of
> meetings between Iraqi officials (the "Saddam audiotapes"), Razoux's
> work is successful in correcting the bias toward analysis of the
> American perspective in existing accounts of the Iran-Iraq War.
> Second, the text usefully unpacks the phases of the war, providing
> greater depth of analysis than many of the existing accounts. The
> conventional story narrates that Iraq invaded Iran in September 1980,
> and that Iraqi forces experienced early successes until Iran reversed
> the tide in 1982-83, when Iran put Iraqi forces on the back foot as
> the front shifted westward back across the border into Iraqi
> territory for the remainder of the war. While this account is not
> inaccurate, neither is it fully complete. Razoux addresses this
> aporia by providing a more comprehensive and contextualized appraisal
> of the events of the war.
> Lastly, Razoux is largely successful in the yeoman's task of making
> connections between the military events of the war and the broader
> political context in which it took place. This is perhaps the book's
> most significant achievement. Military historians, political
> scientists, and those interested in the contemporary political
> dynamics of Iran, Iraq, and the broader Middle East would benefit
> from a close reading of this work.
> Citation: Robert Asaadi. Review of Razoux, Pierre, _The Iran-Iraq
> War_. H-War, H-Net Reviews. August, 2016.
> URL: https://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.php?id=45851
> This work is licensed under a Creative Commons
> Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States
> License.
> --

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