Dangerous Peace: New Rivalry in World Politics

By Alpo M. Rusi | Go to book overview
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7 Constructing the Real Future

"Opinions differ on why the third hegemonic war of the twentieth century ended without mass destruction. The conclusions reached do matter, for the inferences drawn are certain to affect leaders' thinking about how to manage great-power rivalries in the future."

-- Charles W. Kegley, Jr. and Eugene Wittkopf

"In the past, deeds drove words. A hardheaded reading of reality was seen to require certain politics. . . Today words are driving deeds. Rhetorical devices--terms like 'leadership,' 'credibility,' 'engagements' 'sole remaining superpower,' 'moral ascendancy.' and 'American values'--have taken on a life of their own, a virtual reality that prompts policy decisions separate from any calculation of American interests."

- Jonathan Clarke1

The conventional wisdom that wishful thinking pervades political decision making is not supported, as Robert Jervis puts it, by the evidence from either experimental or natural settings, but rather . . . Statesmen sometimes see what they want to see, but whether this error is more common than the opposite one or more frequent than would be expected by chance and non-affective variables has yet to be demonstrated. . . . [indeed] desires and fears have most impact when perceptions matter least. Woodrow Wilson had to decide to ask for a declaration of war against Germany. He had to do this although in his thinking the world was moving away from the era of war. Wilson was of the opinion that he did not have any alternative, no choice but to declare war. 2

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