Opponents rarely go to war without thinking they can win--and clearly, one side must be wrong. This conundrum lies at the heart of the so-called "war puzzle": rational states should agree on their differences in power and thus not fight. But as Dominic Johnson argues in "Overconfidence and War," states are no more rational than people, who are susceptible to exaggerated ideas of their own virtue, of their ability to control events, and of the future. By looking at this bias--called "positive illusions"--as it figures in evolutionary biology, psychology, and the politics of international conflict, this book offers compelling insights into why states wage war. Johnson traces the effects of positive illusions on four turning points in twentieth-century history: two that erupted into war (World War I and Vietnam); and two that did not (the Munich crisis and the Cuban missile crisis). Examining the two wars, he shows how positive illusions have filtered into politics, causing leaders to overestimate themselves and underestimate their adversaries--and to resort to violence to settle a conflict against unreasonable odds. In the Munich and Cuban missile crises, he shows how lessening positive illusions may allow leaders to pursue peaceful solutions. The human tendency toward overconfidence may have been favored by natural selection throughout our evolutionary history because of the advantages it conferred--heightening combat performance or improving one's ability to bluff an opponent. And yet, as this book suggests--and as the recent conflict in Iraq bears out--in the modern world the consequences of this evolutionary legacy are potentially deadly.
"How do mental errors or cognitive biases undermine good decision making?" This is the question Steve A. Yetiv takes up in his latest foreign policy study, National Security through a Cockeyed Lens. Yetiv draws on four decades of psychological, historical, and political science research on cognitive biases to illuminate some of the key pitfalls in our leaders’ decision-making processes and some of the mental errors we make in perceiving ourselves and the world. Tracing five U.S. national security episodes—the 1979 Soviet invasion and occupation of Afghanistan; the Iran-Contra affair during the Reagan administration; the rise of al-Qaeda, leading to the 9/11 attacks; the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq; and the development of U.S. energy policy—Yetiv reveals how a dozen cognitive biases have been more influential in impacting U.S. national security than commonly believed or understood. Identifying a primary bias in each episode—disconnect of perception versus reality, tunnel vision ("focus feature"), distorted perception ("cockeyed lens"), overconfidence, and short-term thinking—Yetiv explains how each bias drove the decision-making process and what the outcomes were for the various actors. His concluding chapter examines a range of debiasing techniques, exploring how they can improve decision making. -- Patrick James, University of Southern California
Post-conflict reconstruction is one of the most pressing political issues today. This book uses economics to analyze critically the incentives and constraints faced by various actors involved in reconstruction efforts. Through this analysis, the book will aid in understanding why some reconstructions are more successful than others.
How Biology Explains Warfare and Terrorism and Offers a Path to a Safer World
Author: Malcolm Potts
Publisher: BenBella Books
Combining exhaustive research and rich personal experience, Sex and War shows that war, terrorism slavery and the subjugation of women have common roots deep in humans' biological history. Evolution is not destiny, however, and the authors, with the crucial contributions of Martha Campbell, show how relatively simple strategies can help the biology of peace win out over the biology of war. In doing so, they lay out a rational roadmap to make war less likely in future and less brutal when it does occur. Now available in paperback.
The Upper South—Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Virginia—was the scene of the most destructive war ever fought on American soil. Contending armies swept across the region from the outset of the Civil War until its end, marking their passage at Pea Ridge, Shiloh, Perryville, and Manassas. Alongside this much-studied conflict, the Confederacy also waged an irregular war, based on nineteenth-century principles of unconventional warfare. In The Uncivil War, Robert R. Mackey outlines the Southern strategy of waging war across an entire region, measures the Northern response, and explains the outcome. Complex military issues shaped both the Confederate irregular war and the Union response. Through detailed accounts of Rebel guerrilla, partisan, and raider activities, Mackey strips away romanticized notions of how the “shadow war” was fought, proving instead that irregular warfare was an integral part of Confederate strategy.
It's usually called the Yom Kippur War. Or sometimes the October War. The players that surround it are familiar: Sadat and Mubarak, Meir and Sharon, Nixon and Kissinger, Brezhnev and Dobyrnin. It was a war that brought Arab and Jew into vicious conflict. A war in which Israel almost unleashed her nuclear arsenal and set two superpowers on a treacherous course of nuclear escalation. And a war that eventually brought peace. But a peace fraught with delicate tensions, disputed borders, and a legacy of further bloodshed. The Two O'Clock War is a spellbinding chronicle of the international chess game that was played out in October 1973. It is a story of diplomacy and military might that accounts for many of the dilemmas faced in the present-day Middle East. This is a war that Israel never thought was possible. Surprised by the fury and excellent execution of the Arab onslaught, and perhaps more than a little complacent, Israel suddenly found itself on the point of losing a war because of a lack of ammunition, planes and tanks. The United States, after much vacillation, finally elected to help Israel, beginning a tremendous airlift (code name: Operation Nickel Grass) which incurred the wrath of the Arab states, and their sponsor, the Soviet Union. Fortunately the airlift came just in time for Israeli ground forces to stabilize their positions and eventually turn the tide in the Sinai and Golan Heights. And it was all made possible by an operation that dwarfed the Berlin Airlift and the Soviets' simultaneous efforts in Egypt and Syria. The Two O'Clock War is bound to become the definitive history of a war that quite literally approached Armageddon.
World War II Americans and the Age of Big Government
Author: James T. Sparrow
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Category: Political Science
Although common wisdom and much scholarship assume that "big government" gained its foothold in the United States under the auspices of the New Deal during the Great Depression, in fact it was the Second World War that accomplished this feat. Indeed, as the federal government mobilized for war it grew tenfold, quickly dwarfing the New Deal's welfare programs. Warfare State shows how the federal government vastly expanded its influence over American society during World War II. Equally important, it looks at how and why Americans adapted to this expansion of authority. Through mass participation in military service, war work, rationing, price control, income taxation, and the war bond program, ordinary Americans learned to live with the warfare state. They accepted these new obligations because the government encouraged all citizens to think of themselves as personally connected to the battle front, linking their every action to the fate of the combat soldier. As they worked for the American Soldier, Americans habituated themselves to the authority of the government. Citizens made their own counter-claims on the state-particularly in the case of industrial workers, women, African Americans, and most of all, the soldiers. Their demands for fuller citizenship offer important insights into the relationship between citizen morale, the uses of patriotism, and the legitimacy of the state in wartime. World War II forged a new bond between citizens, nation, and government. Warfare State tells the story of this dramatic transformation in American life.
Command and Technology in the British Army on the Western Front: 1917-1918
Author: T.H.E. Travers
"How the War Was Won" describes the major role played by the British Expeditionary Force on the Western Front in defeating the German army. In particular, the book explains the methods used in fighting the last year of the war, and raises questions as to whether mechanical warfare could have been more widely used. Using a wide range of unpublished material from archives in both Britain and Canada, Travers explores the two themes of command and technology as the style of warfare changed from late 1917 through 1918. He describes in detail the British army's defense against the German 1918 spring offensives, analyzes command problems during these offensives, and offers an overriding explanation for the March 1918 retreat. He also fully investigates the role of the tank from Cambrai to the end of the war, and concludes that, properly used, the tank could have made a greater contribution to victory. "How the War Was Won" explodes many myths and advances newand controversial arguments. It will be essential reading for military historians and strategists, and for those interested in the origins of mechanical warfare.
When a machine-gun bullet ended the life of war correspondent Ernie Pyle in the final days of World War II, Americans mourned him in the same breath as they mourned Franklin Roosevelt. To millions, the loss of this American folk hero seemed nearly as great as the loss of the wartime president. If the hidden horrors and valor of combat persist at all in the public mind, it is because of those writers who watched it and recorded it in the faith that war is too important to be confined to the private memories of the warriors. Above all these writers, Ernie Pyle towered as a giant. Through his words and his compassion, Americans everywhere gleaned their understanding of what they came to call “The Good War.” Pyle walked a troubled path to fame. Though insecure and anxious, he created a carefree and kindly public image in his popular prewar column—all the while struggling with inner demons and a tortured marriage. War, in fact, offered Pyle an escape hatch from his own personal hell. It also offered him a subject precisely suited to his talent—a shrewd understanding of human nature, an unmatched eye for detail, a profound capacity to identify with the suffering soldiers whom he adopted as his own, and a plain yet poetic style reminiscent of Mark Twain and Will Rogers. These he brought to bear on the Battle of Britain and all the great American campaigns of the war—North Africa, Sicily, Italy, D-Day and Normandy, the liberation of Paris, and finally Okinawa, where he felt compelled to go because of his enormous public stature despite premonitions of death. In this immensely engrossing biography, affectionate yet critical, journalist and historian James Tobin does an Ernie Pyle job on Ernie Pyle, evoking perfectly the life and labors of this strange, frail, bald little man whose love/hate relationship to war mirrors our own. Based on dozens of interviews and copious research in little-known archives, Ernie Pyle's War is a self-effacing tour de force. To read it is to know Ernie Pyle, and most of all, to know his war.