12 Items

Burning of a district of Manila, Philippine-American War, 1899.

Library of Congress

Journal Article - Quarterly Journal: International Security

The Meddler’s Trap: McKinley, the Philippines, and the Difficulty of Letting Go

| Fall 2023

Why do U.S. leaders struggle to end military interventions? William McKinley’s 1898 decision to annex the Philippines reveals why, through a phenomenon called the “meddler’s trap.” This concept denotes a situation of self-entanglement, whereby a leader inadvertently creates a problem through military intervention, feels they can solve it, and values solving the new problem more because of the initial intervention. 

Raising the American flag over Fort Santiago, Manila

Public Domain/George W. Peters

Analysis & Opinions - War on the Rocks

The Psychology of Stickiness: What America Can Learn from Its Annexation of the Philippines In 1898

| May 05, 2022

Aroop Mukharji writes that the moment the United States became a major military power in Asia can be traced to a single day, Oct. 28, 1898. It is a story about the difficulty of letting go, and it teaches scholars and policymakers an important lesson: An everyday psychological bias can lead to years of entanglement. Foreign policy commentary is awash with debates about why one region or another is more or less relevant to U.S. national interests. Those debates are important, but they miss a general point. It is always hard to let go.

George B. Cortelyou

Public Domain/Frances Benjamin Johnston

Analysis & Opinions - War on the Rocks

What One Word Teaches Us About the Uncertainty of American Empire

| Feb. 12, 2021

George B. Cortelyou, a mostly forgotten historical figure, authored one of the most important insider accounts of the final days before the Spanish-American War. His diary is one of the few contemporary descriptions of what was happening in the White House and what was going through President William McKinley’s mind before he requested authorization to use military force on April 11, 1898.  One word from a critical diary entry on April 2, 1898 has never been translated — until now. Aroop Mukharji's translation of that single word dispels two longstanding, powerful myths about the war that launched a sprawling overseas American empire.

Fort Sumter after the bombardment of April 1861

Public Domain

Journal Article - Journal of Applied History

Bound to Happen: Explanation Bias in Historical Analysis

| Dec. 10, 2019

This paper argues that historical analysis, necessarily written with hindsight, often underestimates the uncertainties of the past. The authors call this tendency explanation bias. This bias leads individuals—including professional historians—to imply greater certainty in causal analyses than the evidence justifies. Their analyses will treat what is plausible to be probable. The authors offer a few intuitions about why explanation bias exists, its relation to other well-established psychological biases, what it leads to, and how it might be combatted. 

Audio - Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School

Bruce Schneier on Office Hours Podcast

| Feb. 11, 2019

Cybersecurity expert Bruce Schneier, author of the “Schneier on Security” blog and a Research Fellow with the Belfer Center’s Cyber Security Project, sits down with with Aroop Mukharji to talk about cybersecurity and tech, his book "Click Here to Kill Everybody," and the hacker mentality.

Audio - Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School

William Rapp on Office Hours Podcast

| Jan. 11, 2019

Retired Army Major General William Rapp, former Commandant of both the United States Military Academy and the U.S. Army War College, and currently the Faculty Chair of the Belfer Center’s National Security Fellows Program, sits down with with Aroop Mukharji to talk about civilian-military relations, congressional oversight, and the biggest adjustments to civilian life.