By Yuen Foong Khong
From global conflict I to Operation barren region hurricane, American policymakers have again and again invoked the "lessons of historical past" as they meditated taking their country to battle. Do those old analogies truly form coverage, or are they basically 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 initiatives necessary to political decision-making. Khong identifies what those initiatives are and exhibits how they are often used to provide an explanation for the U.S. choice to interfere in Vietnam. hoping on interviews with senior officers and on lately declassified records, the writer demonstrates with a precision no longer attained through earlier experiences that the 3 most crucial analogies of the Vietnam era--Korea, Munich, and Dien Bien Phu--can account for America's Vietnam offerings. a distinct contribution is the author's use of cognitive social psychology to help his argument approximately how people analogize and to provide an explanation for why policymakers frequently use analogies poorly.
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Additional info for Analogies at War: Korea, Munich, Dien Bien Phu, and the Vietnam Decisions of 1965
How the debate is resolved impinges on what the ultimate lessons of Vietnam are to be for the future decision-makers. 24 If there is any plausibility to these and other theses about how America could have won, it becomes important to understand why the supposedly more efficacious prointervention options were not chosen. The all-or-nothing approach toward military intervention may be a lesson drawn by recent administrations from the failure of "gradualism" in Vietnam. A final reason for examining the choice of options is theoretical.
The most important analogies are identified by inspecting the public and the private record. Even a cursory examination of the analogies to Vietnam invoked by senior officials in public in the months prior to the July 1965 decision would have revealed that the Korean, the 1930s, the Greek, and the Malayan analogies were especially relevant. 1 summarizes the results of a more systematic count of the top ten analogies invoked by senior officials in l'ublic speeches and briefings from 1950 to 1966.
Substantive importance and continuing fascination, however, cannot be the only criteria for selecting a case study. For the student of political science, there should also be sound theoretical reasons for picking one's cases. Here, researchers often find Harry Eckstein's and Alexander George's essays about the theoretical promise of case studies instructive. 4 Critical cases are those in which one's arguments are either most likely or least likely to hold. If one's arguments fail to hold up in the most likely case, they must be very weak; conversely, if they hold up in the least likely case, they must be considered promising.