January 13, 2007 6:11 AM   Subscribe

Why hawks win. How identified predictable errors of judgement favour hawkish policy decisions. Via. Previously.
posted by Abiezer (16 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The article doesn't really make its argument clearly. I think the authors are arguing that there's a particularly toxic blend of cognitive error (risk aversion and risk preference, mostly), excessive self-esteem, and a selected-for emotional bias towards aggression and defensiveness. Or maybe the risk preference and self-esteem cognitive issues are simply illustrative of other kinds of cognitive theories, and the cognitive bias towards aggression and defensiveness is independently sufficient to create the cognitive bias towards hawkishness.
posted by MattD at 6:43 AM on January 13, 2007

I thought it was clear enough, although it could have gone into more depth. It's more like an insight that could lead to a hypothesis than something formal. In a lot of ways it was a laundry list of examples (and from a debate standpoint, without counterexamples), so as an essay it is somewhat wanting. It fails to explain long periods of peace or broad interdependent coalitions such as the European Union. How has all this bias been sublimated, without even a constitution?
posted by dhartung at 7:09 AM on January 13, 2007 [1 favorite]

I wonder if these behaviors (the vision problem, careless optimism, and double or nothing) are the product of social development or genetics. How much of this survival strategy has been hard wired. If it is hardwired could one introduce via gene therapy a kind of peace virus. Can we find variances in these behaviors based on age or diet? Fortunatly since the article is lacking in sources or footnotes we can just speculate wildly.
posted by humanfont at 8:02 AM on January 13, 2007

I like the Sun Tzu title: "If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles."

Very interesting read. Thank you Abiezer.
posted by kisch mokusch at 8:06 AM on January 13, 2007

humanfront - there's further reading suggested if you follow the 'Next' and 'Want to know more?' links, which both point to this.
posted by Abiezer at 8:09 AM on January 13, 2007

I found the article interesting as I thought it addressed a perennial problem from a perspective I'm unfamiliar with. I've just started reading Rome and the Enemy critique here which talks about how Roman leaders responsible for foreign policy "were... ...strongly influenced by a traditional, stereotyped perception of the enemy and a drive to avenge insults to their national honor," and the Sunzi quote tells us that people were aware of the problem as early as the 6th century BCE.
Also reminded me (as the kind of counterexample dhartung asks for) of McNamara talking in The Fog of War about the response to the Khrushchev telegrams during the Cuban missile crisis. Bit of a discussion of that here, where it seems McNamara was mis-remembering, to put it charitably.
posted by Abiezer at 8:35 AM on January 13, 2007

I m not in any way sure whatg "wins" means here. It is true that an aggressive stance is often preferred (evolution?), and that such a stance might get a nation into a war. But it is also true that many nations--perhaps all--fill their people with lies and propaganda about a potential enemy and the rightness of their own cause. And the outcome of the war brought about by hawks?

I won't go into Iraq. That is obviopus.
But the example used here: the Korean War. N. Korea was the hawk and invaded the South. The US responded. China, underestimated we are here told, attacked us. Yes. But then we beat them back to the 38th parallel, the starting point of the war. Thus who is the hawk and who has won? South Korea now has a democracy and a great economy; North Korea has famine, poverty and a dictatorship. China, back "home" again, lost many of its prisoners of war to us who when released went to Tawain rather back to the mainland of China.

In sum: this article touches on an evolutionary point but then wanders off to a vague place that does not support much of what it is saying.
posted by Postroad at 9:22 AM on January 13, 2007

Game theory models a lot of this to find evolutionarily stable strategies. Mostly these points wax and wane between conflict and cooperation. It need not be merely genetic, but also mediated via cultural pressures.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:49 AM on January 13, 2007

Hawks don't always win.

Team Name: Atlanta Hawks
Last Year’s Record: 26-56
posted by jpburns at 10:07 AM on January 13, 2007

Oh, I thought this might be about the Seahawks.
posted by xmutex at 10:50 AM on January 13, 2007

Postroad: "Hawks vs. Doves" doesn't make sense when looking at conflicts between nations, it only makes sense when looking at the political process within nations. In your example, post Inchon when the U.S. had pushed North Korea past the 38th parallel, and had the option of driving all the way north, the 'Dove' view was to sit down and have the UN negotiate a ceasefire while the 'Hawk' view was to retake all of Korea. Similar differences of opinion probably existed within the Chinese leadership when deciding whether to intervene. The article is vague, but your counterexample misses the point of what it's actually talking about.
posted by Grimgrin at 10:53 AM on January 13, 2007

Hawks win policy debates because the control of the wealth of the world (eg oil, bauxite, factories) is intimately tied to secular power. The hard power of our military institution (the Pentagon) that controls about a trillion or so in capital goods (tanks, ships, etc) is joined at the hip to the American financial system. General Butler had it right, largely; we spend more than the rest of the world combined on military stuff for these reasons.

He who improves these institutions is not rewarded with just wealth personally, but these institutions feed back their financial gains back into the domestic political system via direct employment, campaign contributions, and even the "boycott" dynamic detailed in another fpp today.

And even in what is perceived as failure -- a more destabilized world -- results in more spending and more political capital coming the militarists way.

If Saddam didn't have 1 year's worth of US GDP of oil under his personal control, we would not have bothered with him (though of course it was this source of wealth itself that made/makes the Iraqis a dangerous foe to US interests).
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 2:13 PM on January 13, 2007

The only reason - and I mean THEE only reason - American Hawks are so "successful" is because they have yet to attack a country or an organization that can successfully defend itself.

God help the United States if that should ever come to pass.
posted by rougy at 2:31 PM on January 13, 2007

@ rougy
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 3:36 PM on January 13, 2007

Heywood -

Forgive me, but I'm kind of missing your point.

I don't remember Vietnam ever bombing the shit out of Miami, or dusting New York with Sarin.
posted by rougy at 4:48 PM on January 13, 2007

"If Saddam didn't have 1 year's worth of US GDP of oil under his personal control, we would not have bothered with him (though of course it was this source of wealth itself that made/makes the Iraqis a dangerous foe to US interests).

US interests? That's a pretty cool term.

As a US citizen, I didn't realize my "interests" extended so far.

Would make for good collateral on a car loan, huh?

As for your "tied to the hip" metaphor, surely you were alluding to the cancerous effects of said union, since if we took all of that money and spent it on something worthwhile, most of the world's problems would be solved in a matter of years.
posted by rougy at 4:59 PM on January 13, 2007

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