Page 142

even take uncertainty into account. However, their decisions may be flawed because of incomplete or incorrect information, the mental frames through which information is viewed, anxieties, extreme dissatisfaction with the status quo, erroneous mental models of the other protagonists, and other factors. Perceptions may even shift wildly during a fast-moving crisis. Further, leaders have very different attitudes about risk taking.

It is controversial in some circles to assume rationality, but most of the national leaders who have sometimes been described as irrational (e.g., Adolph Hitler, Joseph Stalin, the Ayatollah Khomeni, and Saddam Hussein) were quite rational in the sense defined above. Some of them suffered from severe psychological problems and exhibited bizarre and abhorrent behavior, but their most strategically significant decisions can be understood in terms of their objectives and perceptions. It is also important to recognize that all of us are subject to making a wide variety of perceptual and reasoning errors, but we do not consider ourselves irrational. "Limited rationality" allows for a wide variety of such cognitive "errors," which go by names such as framing, anchoring, attributional inference, "group think," and so on.

The second assumption is that it is useful to structure the theory around universally observable types of reasoning rather than culture-specific concepts such as the so-called Arab, Oriental, Latin, or Western minds. To be sure, cultural factors can have profound effects that must be reflected in any application of theory, but the current approach has such factors entering along the way in context-dependent ways rather than as part of basic structure. The relevant behaviors of historical leaders can be found in all cultures, albeit with different frequencies. For example, the Arab world has produced Anwar Sadat and Saddam Hussein, and the Western world has produced George Bush and Adolph Hitler.

MODELING OPPONENTS AND THEIR ASSESSMENT OF OPTIONS

Assessment of Options

Let us next consider how many aggressors may, in effect, have reasoned about their options in the past and how many others may do so in the future. To repeat, they are attempting to make rational decisions. They are considering options and are also examining likely and possible consequences of those options, as suggested in Table G.2. 1. The format here is that for each option the reasoner estimates the likely outcome, most favorable outcome, and worst-case outcome. He then makes an overall assessment of the option based on these estimates. Each outcome is characterized by a value in the set {Very Bad, Bad, Marginal, Good, Very Good}. Although real-world reasoning is seldom so tidy or linear, the assumption here is that it ends up addressing the issues indicated.



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement