The Outbreak and Termination of the Pacific War: A Juxtaposition of American Preconceptions

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The article juxtaposes the predominant preconceptions and beliefs pertaining to Japanese military capabilities and predisposition to take risks, held by a number of U. S. decision makers on the eve of the Pacific War, with those adhered to during the last phases of that conflagration. The analysis indicates that misperceived notions contributed both to the outbreak of the War and to the manner in which it was terminated. The central lesson emerging from this study in misperception can be formulated as the need to evaluate tactical field information on its own, and to avoid interpreting such data solely in the light of a priori strategic assumptions which inevitably reflect the decision maker's images of an opponent. As the article demonstrates, U. S. policy makers on both occasions analyzed tended to discount the flow of tactical indicators which contradicted their assessments of the opponent's capabilities and propensity to take risks. Thus, as a means for improving the decision-making process, particularly during periods of acute crisis or war (when policy makers are especially susceptible to the influence of preconceived images), the article suggests that increased weight should be given to tactical indicators when these are at variance with strategic assumptions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)33-49
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Peace Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1978


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