Aggression in Historical Perspective
RICHARD W. BULLIET
In my discussion of aggression in a historical context, I will deal with three kinds of aggression, or understandings of the concept of aggression, all of which are relevant in greater or lesser measure to the war between Iran and Iraq.
The first kind of aggression--straightforward aggression undertaken for conquest--we associate mostly with ancient and medieval history. Whether we read an Assyrian inscription from Nineveh, Jovaini's chronicle of the invasion of Genghis Khan, or the story of Nadir Shah's march on Delhi, the historical accounts typically devote little space to justifying the conquest legally or morally. It is the conqueror's heroic greatness that justifies it. In modern times, out-and-out wars of conquest have become so abhorrent to civilized opinion that leaders who engage in such aggression are frequently considered insane. Such was the case with Adolf Hitler, and in the nineteenth century that was the common European judgment of Napoleon. Avoiding the charge of being a madman is one of the reasons that modern leaders usually weave a cloak of legal justification around their attacks.
Ultimately, history and the world will arrive at a judgment concerning the beginning of the war between Iraq and Iran. Many factors will have to be weighed, but at least one will point to the war as an attempt at conquest resulting from personal love of power as great as that of the conquerors of the past. From the earliest hours of the war, the name given to the war in Iraq and in Iraqi literature circulated abroad was