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Explaining Military Effectiveness: Political Control and Battlefield Performance During the Iran-Iraq War, 1980-1988

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Abstract:

What explains variation in battlefield effectiveness? Why do some states general cohesive, tactically proficient armies adept at modern operations, while others fail to do so, despite having the needed resources? This paper proposes and tests an answer focused on the nature of political control over the military. After discussing this explanation—- which hinges on political leaders’ perceptions of internal and external threats, and their subsequent decisions regarding officer promotion, training, command, and information management—- the paper conducts a controlled, paired comparison of Iran and Iraq during the 1980s, one of several chosen for examination as part of a larger project. Drawing on recently declassified documents and interview transcripts, the paper attributes puzzling variations in both sides’ battlefield performance to the nature of political control over the military in the two regimes. In both states, leaders adopted methods of political control over their armies that severely hindered the generation of fighting power-- although in Iraq, these policies shifted late in the war. The analysis shows that the nature of political control was more important in explaining the course, costs, and outcome of the war than large structural factors, such as wealth, regime type, culture, or civil-military relations writ large.
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Name: International Studies Association Annual Conference "Global Governance: Political Authority in Transition"
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MLA Citation:

Talmadge, Caitlin. "Explaining Military Effectiveness: Political Control and Battlefield Performance During the Iran-Iraq War, 1980-1988" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the International Studies Association Annual Conference "Global Governance: Political Authority in Transition", Le Centre Sheraton Montreal Hotel, MONTREAL, QUEBEC, CANADA, Mar 16, 2011 <Not Available>. 2014-07-15 <http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p500899_index.html>

APA Citation:

Talmadge, C. , 2011-03-16 "Explaining Military Effectiveness: Political Control and Battlefield Performance During the Iran-Iraq War, 1980-1988" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the International Studies Association Annual Conference "Global Governance: Political Authority in Transition", Le Centre Sheraton Montreal Hotel, MONTREAL, QUEBEC, CANADA <Not Available>. 2014-07-15 from http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p500899_index.html

Publication Type: Conference Paper/Unpublished Manuscript
Abstract: What explains variation in battlefield effectiveness? Why do some states general cohesive, tactically proficient armies adept at modern operations, while others fail to do so, despite having the needed resources? This paper proposes and tests an answer focused on the nature of political control over the military. After discussing this explanation—- which hinges on political leaders’ perceptions of internal and external threats, and their subsequent decisions regarding officer promotion, training, command, and information management—- the paper conducts a controlled, paired comparison of Iran and Iraq during the 1980s, one of several chosen for examination as part of a larger project. Drawing on recently declassified documents and interview transcripts, the paper attributes puzzling variations in both sides’ battlefield performance to the nature of political control over the military in the two regimes. In both states, leaders adopted methods of political control over their armies that severely hindered the generation of fighting power-- although in Iraq, these policies shifted late in the war. The analysis shows that the nature of political control was more important in explaining the course, costs, and outcome of the war than large structural factors, such as wealth, regime type, culture, or civil-military relations writ large.

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