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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



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 Iran‐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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