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Which Lessons Matter?

American Foreign Policy Decision Making in the Middle East, 1979-1987

Christopher Hemmer

Publication Year: 2000

Christopher Hemmer offers a model for how U.S. decision makers use the lessons of history to diagnose and make policy choices. As policy makers turn to the lessons of history, to which lessons will they turn? This book offers a model of the analogical reasoning process that helps answer the important question of why some historical analogies are seen as relevant for later decisions, while others are ignored. It explores the previously neglected possibility that analogies can do more than simply advance the pre-existing interests of decision makers, but can also determine the very interests policy makers seek to further. The usefulness of this approach in impacting the lessons of history is demonstrated by examining American policy toward Iran concerning American hostages from 1979 to 1987, detailing both the Carter administration’s policy during the Hostage Crisis and the Reagan administration’s policy that resulted in the Iran-Contra Affair.

Published by: State University of New York Press

Which Lessons Matter?

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Acknowledgments

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pp. ix-x

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1. Analogies, Choice and Foreign Policy

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pp. 1-34

Since World War II, such statements have become commonplace. So common, that it would be difficult to guess with any degree of certainty who made this statement and in what context. It could be Harry Truman reacting to the invasion of South Korea; Anthony Eden talking about Egypt’s seizure of the Suez Canal; Presidents Kennedy, Johnson, or Nixon concerning the Vietnam War; Jimmy Carter responding to the…

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2. The Historical Repertoire

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pp. 35-45

One of the central questions that an analogical approach to decision making must answer is, why do policy makers select the lessons they do? Out of an entire universe of possibilities, why do policy makers select particular historical events and lessons to base their policy on? The first step toward answering this question is to recognize that all historical analogies are not created equal. Instead of…

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3. The Rise and Fall of Analogies: The Carter Administration and the Hostage Crisis

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pp. 47-90

On the morning of 4 November 1979, a crowd of Iranian protesters gathered outside the U.S. embassy in Tehran. Protests against the U.S. presence in Iran were nothing new. Since the overthrow of the American-supported Shah earlier in the year, anti-United States rallies had become commonplace. With news reaching Iran that the United States had admitted the…

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4. Evading an Analogy: The Legacy of the Iranian Hostage Crisis and Policy toward Hostages in Lebanon

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pp. 91-141

One of Ronald Reagan’s happiest moments as President came very early in his term, when he welcomed the American hostages home from Iran.1 Unfortunately for Reagan, American captives held abroad also provided some of the darkest moments for his tenure in the White House. Throughout 1984 and 1985, seven Americans were taken hostage in…

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5. The Lessons of History and Foreign Policy: Results and Areas for Further Study

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pp. 143-156

The central purpose of this book has been to contribute to the study of foreign policy by taking ideas seriously and attempting to answer the critical but often unexplored questions of which ideas matter and why. This study has focused on one particular type of idea, the historical analogy. While there is general agreement…

Notes

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pp. 157-195

Bibliography

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pp. 197-208

Index

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pp. 209-217


E-ISBN-13: 9780791492222
E-ISBN-10: 0791492222
Print-ISBN-13: 9780791446492
Print-ISBN-10: 0791446492

Page Count: 217
Publication Year: 2000

Series Title: SUNY series in Global Politics
Series Editor Byline: James N. Rosenau

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Subject Headings

  • United States -- Foreign relations -- 1981-1989.
  • United States -- Foreign relations -- 1977-1981.
  • Middle East -- Foreign relations -- United States.
  • United States -- Foreign relations -- Middle East.
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