Majestic Failure: The Fall Of The Shah

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Majestic Failure: The Fall Of The Shah

By Marvin Zonis
University of Chicago Press, 1991
350 pp. $29.95
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This psychobiography maintains that the shah of Iran was the primary architect of his own downfall. Zonis depicts a weak personality characterized by "narcissistic grandiosity." The author convincingly describes the deterioration of the shah's personal and physical circumstances that rendered him indecisive and dependent in the face of the mounting internal challenges in 1978. Some readers may be put off by the emphasis on the shah's personality, but no one who dealt with the shah in those momentous days of the revolution could fail to be struck by his odd behavior. Where the author seems less on the mark is in his discussion of how the United States contributed to the shah's fall. He argues that Nixon gave the shah too much support, and Carter not enough. The policy recommendations with which the book concludes are less original than the core.