Mistakes, in the form of bad decisions, are a common feature of every presidential administration, and their consequences run the gamut from unnecessary military spending, to missed opportunities for foreign policy advantage, to needless bloodshed. This book analyzes a range of presidential decisions made in the realm of US foreign policy—with a special focus on national security—over the past half century in order to create a roadmap of the decision process and a guide to better foreign policy decision-making in the increasingly complex context of 21st century international relations.
Mistakes are analyzed in two general categories—ones of omission and ones of commission within the context of perceived threats and opportunities. Within this framework, the authors discuss how past scholarship has addressed these questions and argue that this research has not explicitly identified a vantage point around which the answers to these questions revolve. They propose game theory models of complex adaptive systems for minimizing bad decisions and apply them to test cases in the Middle East and Asia.
About the authors
Stephen G. Walker is Professor Emeritus in the School of Politics and Global Studies at Arizona State University.
Akan Malici is Associate Professor at Furman University.
"Walker and Malici have produced a rich study that reviews a wide range of US foreign policy mistakes over the past century . . . The real strength of the Walker and Malici analysis is in the typology of mistakes along two different dimensions: failures of analysis and of prescription and the mistakes of omission and commission—sometimes the United States does too much too soon, and sometimes it does too little too late. The exercise of laying out this typology and illustrating each type of mistake with a series of prototypical cases is helpful and constructive to the literature on decision making and on American foreign policy."
—Jon Western, Perspectives on Politics
"In this impressive research, Walker and Malici address the serious consequences of US presidents' foreign policy mistakes that proved costly to the US in terms of lives and money. . . Recommended."
—K. M. Zaarour, CHOICE
"[B]oth the ambition and scope of the book are admirable."
—Robert Jervis, Political Science Quarterly
"Depth-breadth trade-offs are unavoidable in all scholarship: but not here. This book does a superb job of integrating historical, game-theoretic, and psychological approaches and deepening our understanding of how to avoid miscalculations that can cause grievous harm on a massive scale."
—Philip E. Tetlock, Annenberg University Professor, University of Pennsylvania
"In a world of uncertainty where mistakes are unavoidable facts of daily life for citizens and politicians alike, how politicians will be able to avoid foreign policy mistakes is the main concern of this book. There are some other questions of crucial importance which the book deals with: What are foreign policy mistakes and how and why do they occur? The answers to those questions are available in this book, and it concentrates on the concept of power."
—Özden Zeynep Oktav, Insight Turkey