The Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1991 which led to the Gulf War has given rise to a number of theories which endeavour to explain the underlying causes of the war. In this study the author questions whether it was the personality of Saddam Hussein, the structure of the Iraqi state or the workings of the international political system which made war between Iraq and the American-led alliance inevitable. He examines these three theories in turn, first showing how Saddam's personality and upbringing includes many features which psychologists have detected in the personal backgrounds of other prominent dictators who have launched wars. Secondly, he analyzes the distinctive internal weaknesses of the Iraqi state - sectarian tension between Sunnis and Shi'ites, ethnic conflict between Arabs and Kurds, economic weakness following the debilitating Iran-Iraq war, all presided over by impotent political institutions born of a repressive state machine. The author shows how the country's political elite resorted to scape-goating, and thus a belligerent foreign policy.
Finally the author assesses the formal anarchy of the post-Cold War international system as it affected the Gulf region, and demonstrates how the vacuum in the regional balance of power led Iraq to miscalculate the odds on a successful Western counter-attack against Iraq.