When do leaders resort to deception to sell wars to their publics? Dan Reiter and Allan Stam have advanced a “selection effects” explanation for why democracies win the wars they initiate: leaders, because they must secure public consent first, “select” into those wars they expect to win handily. In some cases, however, the “selection effect” breaks down. In these cases, leaders, for realist reasons, are drawn toward wars where an easy victory is anything but assured. Leaders resort to deception in such cases to preempt what is sure to be a contentious debate over whether the use of force is justified by shifting blame for hostilities onto the adversary. The events surrounding the United States' entry into World War II is useful in assessing the plausibility of this argument. President Franklin Roosevelt welcomed U.S. entry into the war by the fall of 1941 and attempted to manufacture events accordingly. An important implication from this finding is that deception may sometimes be in the national interest.
H-Diplo | ISSF Article Review, Number 3
Reviewed by Marc Trachtenberg, University of California, Los Angeles