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Misperceptions and the Causes of War

Misperceptions and the Causes of War - Misperceptions and...

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Misperceptions and the Causes of War: Theoretical Linkages and Analytical Problems Jack Levy Even though theories of foreign policy have provided an analysis on sources of misperception, few stories deal with its consequences, and how these are related to war. Misperceptions, however, are key in establishing a nonrational perspective on conflict. White identifies the following forms of misperception as relevant to war: o Diabolical enemy image. o Virile self-image o Moral self image. o Selective inattention o Absence of attention o Military overconfidence Stroessinger also suggests a similar set of categories: o Leader’s perception of himself o Perceptions on the adversary’s character o Perception on the adversary’s intentions o Perception on adversary’s power and capabilities. o Leader’s capacity for empathy. In both cases. These theories fail to differentiate between misperceptions themselves or sources thereof. Also, it is difficult to determine the accuracy of perceptions. Misperception: Discrepancy between the psychological environment of decision makers and the operational environment of the real world. The concept of misperception can be narrowed to two forms: o Capabilities o Intentions.
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Secondary forms of misperception may also be found. o Misperception of the perception of others: These often lead to misperception of the adversary’s intentions. o Misunderstanding of others’ decision-making process: This makes it difficult to understand the meaning of adversaries’ actions and to predict future behavior. It is also important to consider decision-makers’ expectations about the future, for they may turn into a self-fulfilling or self- denying prophecy, o The behaviour of third states is also central in the causes of war. The Linkages from Misperceptions to War We can distinguish between military overconfidence, military underconfidence or uncertainty or ignorance regarding the adversary’s doctrine.
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