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National Security Through a Cockeyed Lens: How Cognitive Bias Impacts U.S. Foreign Policy, Steve A. Yetiv

Reviewed by James H. Lebovic

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In his book, Steve A. Yetiv establishes that recurrent cognitive biases have consistently undermined the quality of U.S. foreign policy decisions. He exam­ines a diverse set of contemporary cases, focused in and around the Middle East, to demonstrate the influence of one or more of a full set of deleterious psycho­logical tendencies. Yetiv is forthright about the purposes of this small volume. He concedes that he is not breaking new intellectual ground, testing proposi­tions against competing arguments, or selecting cases for their representative­ness. Instead, he seeks to introduce the essential vocabulary and arguments of an important theory of foreign policy to a broad audience.

Each chapter has a different thematic focus and historical case. The Afghanistan chapter focuses on the bias by which parties see their own behavior as transparently virtuous, in contrast to an opponent’s behavior; the Iranā€Contra chapter centers on the tunnel vision behind the Ronald Reagan admin­istration’s efforts to trade guns to Iran to secure release of U.S. hostages and obtain cash to fund the Contras in Nicaragua; the Iraq chapter centers on overconfidence in the George W. Bush administration’s 2003 rush to war

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