3 Items

A volunteer in a contemporary reconstruction of the WWI battle of Verdun.

(AP Photo/Jean-Francois Badias)

Journal Article - Quarterly Journal: International Security

Bad World: The Negativity Bias in International Politics

| Winter 2018/19

Negative phenomena more strongly influence leaders’ judgments and decisionmaking
than do positive phenomena. This so-called negativity bias helps explain state behavior that contributes to the security dilemma, threat inflation, and the persistence of war.

U.S. Gen. Tommy R. Franks, Commander of United States Central Command, right, jokes with U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, as they meet U.S. soldiers at As Sayliyah military base in Doha, Qatar, Dec. 12, 2002.

AP Photo

Policy Brief - Quarterly Journal: International Security

Crossing the Rubicon: The Perils of Committing to a Decision

| September 2011

...[A]fter adopting a policy, decisionmakers should resist the temptation to marginalize any skeptics. Indeed, it may be advisable for someone to deliberately play the role of "devil's advocate" and question optimistic appraisals of likely outcomes. Following the 2002–03 decision to invade Iraq, U.S. war planners were extremely overconfident about the prospects for stabilizing the country. Skeptical voices were sidelined or excluded. If senior officials had anticipated the shift to implemental mind-sets and the associated overconfidence, a "devil's advocate" would have helped to challenge shaky assumptions behind the strategy.

Members of the United Nations Security Council attend a meeting at U.N. headquarters in New York, Feb. 25, 2003. A U.S-backed resolution declaring that Iraq missed its chance to peacefully disarm set the stage for a heated battle in the Security Council.

AP Photo

Journal Article - Quarterly Journal: International Security

The Rubicon Theory of War: How the Path to Conflict Reaches the Point of No Return

| Summer 2011

The Rubicon theory of war explains how leaders grappling with the possibility of war may experience a sudden shift in mentality from deliberation to implementation, decreasing the chance of a peaceful resolution.  Experimental psychology has demonstrated that the act of making a decision can bring about a state of overconfidence, irrational optimism, and closed-mindedness, limiting rational thought and the ability to compromise.  If leaders make this psychological shift before war has become inevitable, narrower vision and lack of deliberation may contribute to the outbreak of war.