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In Uncertain TimesAmerican Foreign Policy after the Berlin Wall and 9/11$
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Melvyn P. Leffler and Jeffrey W. Legro

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780801449093

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: August 2016

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9780801449093.001.0001

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The Assumptions Did It

The Assumptions Did It

(p.131) 8 The Assumptions Did It
In Uncertain Times

Bruce Cumings

Cornell University Press

This chapter examines how sudden events tend to fit into existing assumptions of both policymakers and scholars, and how their reactions become skewed to such events that result in biased foreign policy decisions. It also considers theories about anticipating and predicting future events by focusing on World War II, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union, 9/11, and post-Cold War North Korea. It explains how these cases spawned new policies and why U.S. officials persisted in exaggerating the danger of the North Korean threat while stressing the vulnerability of the regime. It argues that these policymakers cannot avoid speaking in metaphors that are grounded in unconscious illusions and guided by emotions that are out of touch with reality.

Keywords:   foreign policy, World War II, Berlin Wall, Soviet Union, 9/11, North Korea

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