War and Misperception

War and Misperception - War and Misperception Robert Jervis...

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War and Misperception Robert Jervis Term misperception is used in this article broadly, to include inaccurate inferences, miscalculations of consequences and misjudgments about others Misperception plays a large role in the causes of war Problem Areas of Misperception Mostly look as misperceptions of intentions of potential adversaries but misperception of capabilities and military optimism is also associated with the outbreak of war Less attention is paid to he anticipated consequences of war (US in Vietnam: they felt that the small losses or gains would set off a self perpetuating cycle) which beliefs were incorrect At times we many need to distinguish between misperceptions of a state’s predispositions-that is motive ad goals- and misperceptions of the realities faced by the state. War Without Misperception Argued that every war has at least one misperception, as both entered the war thinking they were going to win, but someone must be defeated A nation could rationally go to war even thought it was certain it would lose 1. Country could value fighting itself (ultimate goal or as a mean for improving man and society) 2. Faced with the choice of giving up one’s territory, or losing it through war (honor, domestic politics) 3. To impress other countries (even if they are weak, and they are willing to fight it might infer to others their willingness, and might increase their bargaining position) One may go to war even if the chances of victory are small, but the gains of victory are great and the costs of loosing are not much better than making the concessions necessary to avoid war Methodogical Problems
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To determine the influence of misperception on war would be to use the comparative method, however problems stand in the way Should we compare them to what was later revealed to have been reality or whether we should ask how reasonable were the statesmen’s inferences given the info at the time
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This note was uploaded on 08/26/2010 for the course POLI 244 taught by Professor Saideman during the Fall '07 term at McGill.

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War and Misperception - War and Misperception Robert Jervis...

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