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Failing to Win: Perceptions of Victory and Defeat in International Politics Hardcover – November 29, 2006

ISBN-13: 978-0674023246 ISBN-10: 0674023242 Edition: First Edition
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Editorial Reviews

Review

This is one of those books that leads the reader to ask why it had not been done before. I am amazed that both academics and members of the interested public had generally assumed that in most cases it was self-evident who had won or lost an encounter. The authors show that this is simply not the case, and in doing so have put this important question on our agenda. (Robert Jervis, Adlai E. Stevenson Professor of International Politics, Columbia University)

About the Author

Dominic Johnson is Alistair Buchan Professor of International Relations in the Department of Politics and International Relations at the University of Oxford.

Dominic Tierney is Assistant Professor of Political Science, Swarthmore College.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 360 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press; First Edition edition (October 30, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674023242
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674023246
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6.2 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,688,335 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Norah Charles on February 22, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This is a highly original, ground-breaking book, which I recommend to anyone interested in American foreign policy or military affairs. Johnson and Tierney tackle a new and vital question: how do we decide which country won in a war or crisis? After all, support for Bush and the War in Iraq hinges on public perceptions of how the war is going - so where do these perceptions come from? The authors provide a model for how we should judge the outcome, and then show how public perceptions deviate from this model due to psychological biases, expectation effects, and media and elite spin. Throughout history, from the War of 1812, to Dunkirk, Tet and Somalia, people have repeatedly judged defeats as victories and victories as defeats.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Shalom Freedman HALL OF FAME on November 8, 2006
Format: Hardcover
There was a time in the Post- Second War period, when the economies of Japan and Germany were booming, and that of the 'United States' foundering. For the first time certain people began to talk about 'who really won' the Second War.
Recently the enormously talented historian Niall Ferguson has reconsidered the First World War and argued it might have been better for all concerned had Germany won that War, as it might have meant that the Second World War would not have occurred.
These two cases point out not simply the fickleness of human opinion, but rather how judgment of 'who won the war' is complex dependent upon changing historical realities.
In this highly original work Johnson and Tierney try to shake us out of our most often misleading and simple perceptions of victory and show that determining the 'victor' in a war is a more complicated business than we imagine.
After engaging in a quite academic discussion of the military and political standards for determining who has won the war, they get down in chapter five of the work to specific cases. This is what Carlin Romano in his review in 'The Philadelphia Inquirer' has to say about their analysis.
of " the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Tet Offensive (a U.S. victory, they say, that went down as a defeat), the Yom Kippur War (an Israeli victory, they say, misunderstood as a defeat), the U.S. intervention in Somalia, and the current "war against terror" (a mixed picture in their view.)

In those chapters, Johnson and Tierney provide a huge public service by showing how perceptions of victory depend on such factors as divergent assumptions about goals, and about "before" and "after" points by which to judge progress.
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3 of 12 people found the following review helpful By chitatel on March 7, 2007
Format: Hardcover
A good idea, poorly executed: the analytical framework is superficial and treatment of cases shallow. The authors conclude that "leaders today... may be able to draw a political victory from the jaws of military defeat by highlighting illusory achievements." (p. 290) Yeah, sure. Just declare Mission Accomplished. The role of perceptions is indeed crucial, but cannot be reduced to Machiavellianism Lite. This is precisely the kind of thinking that leads to disaster.
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