Deceit on the Road to War: Presidents, Politics, and American Democracy - Cornell Studies in Security Affairs (Hardback)John M. Schuessler (author)
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In Deceit on the Road to War, John M. Schuessler examines how U.S. presidents have deceived the American public about fundamental decisions of war and peace. Deception has been deliberate, he suggests, as presidents have sought to shift blame for war onto others in some cases and oversell its benefits in others. Such deceit is a natural outgrowth of the democratic process, in Schuessler's view, because elected leaders have powerful incentives to maximize domestic support for war and retain considerable ability to manipulate domestic audiences. They can exploit information and propaganda advantages to frame issues in misleading ways, cherry-pick supporting evidence, suppress damaging revelations, and otherwise skew the public debate to their benefit. These tactics are particularly effective before the outbreak of war, when the information gap between leaders and the public is greatest.When resorting to deception, leaders take a calculated risk that the outcome of war will be favorable, expecting the public to adopt a forgiving attitude after victory is secured. The three cases featured in the book-Franklin Roosevelt and World War II, Lyndon Johnson and the Vietnam War, and George W. Bush and the Iraq War-test these claims. Schuessler concludes that democracies are not as constrained in their ability to go to war as we might believe and that deception cannot be ruled out in all cases as contrary to the national interest.
Publisher: Cornell University Press
Number of pages: 192
Weight: 425 g
Dimensions: 229 x 152 x 18 mm
"Schuessler (Air War College) has written a concise, sharply analytical book that challenges one of the pillars of the democratic peace literature. The book makes an excellent argument and can also be used as a primer in qualitative methods. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All readership levels."-- W.W. Newmann * Choice *
"Deceit on the Road to War is engagingly written and propels the reader forward. John M. Schuessler explains how and why presidents withhold or slant information to the public. He argues that leaders engage in blame shifting when they foresee a costly war (to show that leaders have no choice) and overselling the threat (when the adversary is not an imminent danger to national security). Schuessler's argument is relevant to democratic peace theory, which argues that democracies are less likely to enter into unwinnable wars."-- Deborah Welch Larson, UCLA, author of Anatomy of Mistrust: U.S.-Soviet Relations during the Cold War
"Most Americans share our liberal tradition's faith that our democratic political system ensures that good foreign policy ideas regularly triumph over bad ones. But recent events in Iraq and elsewhere suggest that our marketplace of strategic ideas has become bankrupt. John M. Schuessler shows us that this problem is long-standing, teaches us that our unqualified faith in the normal functioning of our political system is naive given the ability of our leaders-especially Presidents-to circumvent it, and urges us to adopt a more worldly view about the relationship between deceit and decisions for war. Deceit on the Road to War provides invaluable directions to both scholars and policymakers as they navigate the twisted paths linking foreign and domestic policy in our democracy."-- Michael C. Desch, University of Notre Dame, author of Democracy and Military Effectiveness
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