The Gulf Conflict and International Relations

The Gulf Conflict and International Relations

The Gulf Conflict and International Relations

The Gulf Conflict and International Relations


This book provides a comprehensive analysis and review of the major events and the leading actors of the Gulf War. Copies of key documents and essential factual information build up a picture of the realities of war in the Middle East but the material is set in a strong theoretical framework. This allows the author to see the conflict within the context of the international system and to relate it to the changes of the post-cold-war world.

Matthews looks at the shifts in international order which dictated the nature of the international response to the war, but also at the new conditions created by the war itself. What scope is there for Arab socialism after the fall of European socialism? Has the conflict made Israel stronger or weaker? Can the UN be entrusted with the post of global peace-keeper?


The book is written from an international-relations perspective. Thus it is not a history of the Gulf conflict; it does not trace the events chronologically from beginning to end. What it aims to do is to take a series of ‘lateral slices’ through the conflict examining the crisis from different analytical perspectives. the objective is to provide a more rounded understanding of the conflict and perhaps provide a basis for the reader—student or interested layman—for further investigation. Each of the chapters could, and no doubt will in time, provide the subject for a whole book. Meanwhile perhaps this book can in a single volume set the conflict as a whole in an overtly international relations perspective.

The historian’s claim that events cannot be understood until decades, if not centuries, have intervened to lend ‘historical perspective’ to our judgements has some validity when applied to the problem of assessing where the events we study fit into the broad sweep of history. Even then ‘historical perspective’ does vary according to the times from which historical events are viewed, so the perspective of time by no means guarantees the discovery of ‘historical truth’ even if such a thing exists. But it is possible to gain some real, even if not ultimate, understanding of what happened by applying some of the insights of political science and the academic study of international relations. This can be done on the one hand without waiting for decades to elapse and on the other without resorting to ‘instant journalism’.

There is another justification for attempting to produce a reasonably analytical examination of the crisis even at this relatively early stage after the actual events. It would be a plausible claim to say that the events relating to the Gulf crisis, both the relatively brief period of the military conflict itself and the four

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