By Yuen Foong Khong
From international struggle I to Operation wasteland hurricane, American policymakers have again and again invoked the "lessons of background" as they reflected taking their country to warfare. Do those historic analogies really form coverage, or are they essentially instruments of political justification? Yuen Foong Khong argues that leaders use analogies no longer basically to justify guidelines but in addition to accomplish particular cognitive and information-processing projects necessary to political decision-making. Khong identifies what those projects are and exhibits how they are often used to give an explanation for the U.S. selection to intrude in Vietnam. counting on interviews with senior officers and on lately declassified files, the writer demonstrates with a precision now not attained by way of prior reviews that the 3 most vital analogies of the Vietnam era--Korea, Munich, and Dien Bien Phu--can account for America's Vietnam offerings. a unique contribution is the author's use of cognitive social psychology to help his argument approximately how people analogize and to give an explanation for why policymakers usually use analogies poorly.
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Extra resources for Analogies at War: Korea, Munich, Dien Bien Phu, and the Vietnam Decisions of 1965
Foreign affairs being what they are, the consequences of overuse and misapplication of analogies can be potentially destructive to the larger world . •• See Holsti, "Foreign Policy Cognitively Viewed"; John Steinbrunner, The Cybernetic Theory of Decision (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1974); and Alexander George, Presidential Decisionmaking in Foreign Policy: The Effective Use of Information and Advice (Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press, 1980), chaps. 2-3, for conditions under which cognitive factors such as historical analogies are likely to be influential in decision-making.
The puzzle for most studies is why the United States intervened in Vietnam. A satisfactory answer is obtained inasmuch as one documents the various factors responsible for the decision to begin the air war or the ground intervention. The first wave of analyses of the Vietnam War were predominantly of this nature. 15 Precision made possible by the availability of documents is part of the issue here. Firstwave writers, even with access to the Pentagon Papers, found it difficult to reconstruct important aspects of the decision-making process.
It therefore deserves a special place in our analysis. The 1930s, Malaya, and Greece are also among the top five analogies in both counts. The French experience, however, never invoked in public, was the second most frequently used analogy in private. It therefore also deserves to be analyzed. In addition, the 1930s and Malaya analogies will also figure prominently in this work. In effect, I have chosen to analyze the four most frequently invoked private analogies. 2 are partially responsible for this choice; equally important, however, is a qualitative assessment, based on interviews with former policymakers and a familiarity with the Vietnam documents, of the analogies that seem to matter.
Analogies at War: Korea, Munich, Dien Bien Phu, and the Vietnam Decisions of 1965 by Yuen Foong Khong