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Prisoners of Their Premises

How Unexamined Assumptions Lead to War and Other Policy Debacles

Prisoners of Their Premises

How Unexamined Assumptions Lead to War and Other Policy Debacles

A timely look at the real costs of leaders not examining their assumptions.
 
Why do accomplished and stable leaders frequently make calamitous decisions with devastating consequences for their countries—and other nations? We debate debacles such as the American involvement in Vietnam, seeking to understand why leaders pursued disastrous policies. In Prisoners of Their Premises, George C. Edwards III argues that the failure of leaders to examine their premises—the assumptions they make about the world and situation they are dealing with—cause them to ignore real problems or pursue policies that, in costly ways, deal with problems that are different than they think or simply don’t exist. Edwards looks at the role of premises in identifying (or ignoring) a problem in a series of case studies that range from strategic decisions in World War I and the Korean War to the wars in Vietnam and Iraq. Too often, unexamined premises color initial decisions to pursue a policy and shape the strategies leaders employ to achieve their goals, with grave consequences for their countries, organizations, and potentially the world. Timely and important, Prisoners of Their Premises demonstrates the real costs leaders incur by failing to question their assumptions.

Table of Contents

Preface
Chapter 1. The Power of Premises
Chapter 2. Assuming Problems: The War in Vietnam
Chapter 3. Ignoring and Underestimating Problems
Chapter 4. Ignoring and Underestimating Problems: The Chinese Intervention in Korea in 1950
Chapter 5. Assuming and Ignoring Problems: The Invasion of Iraq
Chapter 6. No Silver Bullet
Notes
Index

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