Prisoners of Their Premises: How Unexamined Assumptions Lead to War and Other Policy Debacles

Univ. of Chicago. Nov. 2022. 160p. ISBN 9780226822822. pap. $24. POL SCI
In this concise analysis, Edwards (emeritus, political science, Texas A&M; Changing Their Minds) explores how and why leaders, especially presidents of the United States, make some of their most difficult choices concerning perceived problems. The work first focuses on the components of decision-making, beliefs, and premises. It pivots to examine the role and impact premises play by exploring historical examples. This is done through the prism of assumed, ignored, and underestimated problems. Refreshingly, the author acknowledges premises are not the only determinative factor influencing decisions, rather he highlights the enormous power of predispositions. The work includes a nice mix of historical examples, including the wars in Vietnam, Iraq, and Korea. One chapter mentions multiple events during the Thomas Jefferson era, the two World Wars, and the Bay of Pigs. The work challenges the reader to consider preexisting beliefs in political decisions and the difficulty leaders face to quickly process and analyze information. The work serves as a helpful reminder that everyone uses premises when making decisions, but that should not play a dominant role.
VERDICT Academic libraries should include this work.
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