Fighting on: emotion and conflict termination
Published on Jul 3, 2015in Cambridge Review of International Affairs0.656
· DOI :10.1080/09557571.2014.888539
Why do states persist in enduring, expensive conflicts when the costs seem so high, the potential benefits, at best, somewhat ambiguous? This article suggests that emotional psychology can provide some insights into this problem. Decision-makers construct a vision of the future that is greatly informed by affect. How they feel in the present has a big impact on their conception of events and their decisions about them. The risks they are prepared to take, the desires they anticipate having in future, the lessons of the past they draw on—all are constructed under the influence of current emotions, and all may encourage the persistence of conflict beyond a point at which more dispassionate minds might desist. This theoretical argument is then illustrated with a discussion of US policy-making in the Vietnam War.