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Emotion and Strategy in the Korean War

  • Jonathan Mercer (a1)
Abstract

What makes a diplomatic or military signal credible? In strategic settings where deception is possible, rational actors' interpretations rely on their beliefs, intuition, and imagination—they rely on emotion. Two properties of emotion—as an assimilation mechanism and its use as evidence—are key to addressing four strategic problems. First, emotion explains why actors worry needlessly about their reputations. Second, emotion is important to understanding costly signals. Third, emotion explains radical changes in preferences. Fourth, emotion sharpens understanding of strategic problems without being self-invalidating: common knowledge of emotion's effects do not always change those effects. Understanding how rational actors think requires turning to emotion. Evidence from the Korean War captures strengths and weaknesses of competing perspectives.

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