By Yuen Foong Khong
From international struggle I to Operation wilderness typhoon, American policymakers have many times invoked the "lessons of heritage" as they reflected taking their country to warfare. Do those ancient analogies truly form coverage, or are they essentially instruments of political justification? Yuen Foong Khong argues that leaders use analogies no longer in simple terms to justify guidelines but in addition to accomplish particular cognitive and information-processing initiatives necessary to political decision-making. Khong identifies what those projects are and indicates how they are often used to provide an explanation for the U.S. selection to interfere in Vietnam. hoping on interviews with senior officers and on lately declassified records, the writer demonstrates with a precision no longer attained via past stories that the 3 most vital 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 aid his argument approximately how people analogize and to give an explanation for why policymakers usually use analogies poorly.
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Extra info for Analogies at War: Korea, Munich, Dien Bien Phu, and the Vietnam Decisions of 1965
For example, if we find memoranda to the president urging him not to think in terms of another Korea or another Munich in making decisions about Vietnam, we may legitimately infer that he might have been using those historical parallels in his thinking. Moreover, if we find then that the president himself raised concerns about repeating MacArthur's mistake in Korea in several NSC meetings over time, we will have found firm evidence about the importance of the analogy in the president's thinking.
112. •• See Gabriel Kolko, The Roots of American Foreign Policy: An Analysis of Power and Purpose (Boston: Beacon Press, 1969), for the economic interpretation; the SEATO rationale can be found in Department of State Bulletin, May 24, 1965, p. 817. 46 See chap. 5 for a fuDer account of this meeting. the way and the context in which these analogies were used in the policy process, one may then infer which ones were particularly influential and which options they might predispose Johnson to choose.
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.