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Why Leaders Lie: The Truth About Lying in International Politics
     

Why Leaders Lie: The Truth About Lying in International Politics

by John J. Mearsheimer
 

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For more than two decades, John J. Mearsheimer has been regarded as one of the foremost realist thinkers on foreign policy. Clear and incisive, a fearlessly honest analyst, his coauthored 2007 New York Times bestseller, The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy, aroused a firestorm with its unflinching look at the making of America's Middle East

Overview

For more than two decades, John J. Mearsheimer has been regarded as one of the foremost realist thinkers on foreign policy. Clear and incisive, a fearlessly honest analyst, his coauthored 2007 New York Times bestseller, The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy, aroused a firestorm with its unflinching look at the making of America's Middle East policy. Now he takes a look at another controversial but understudied aspect of international relations: lying. In Why Leaders Lie, Mearsheimer provides the first systematic analysis of lying as a tool of statecraft, identifying the varieties, the reasons, and the potential costs and benefits. Drawing on a trove of examples, he argues that leaders often lie for good strategic reasons, so a blanket condemnation is unrealistic and unwise. Yet there are other kinds of deception besides lying, including concealment and spinning. Perhaps no distinction is more important than that between lying to another state and lying to one's own people. Mearsheimer was amazed to discover how unusual interstate lying has been; given the atmosphere of distrust among the great powers, he found that outright deceit is difficult to pull off and thus rarely worth the effort. Plus it sometimes backfires when it does occur. Khrushchev lied about the size of the Soviet missile force, sparking an American build-up. Eisenhower got caught lying about U-2 spy flights in 1960, which scuttled an upcoming summit with Krushchev. Leaders more often mislead their own publics, sometimes with damaging consequences. Though the reasons may be noble--Franklin Roosevelt, for example, lied to the American people about German U-boats attacking the destroyer Greer in 1940, to build a case for war against Hitler-they can easily lead to disaster, as with the Bush administration's falsehoods about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. There has never been a sharp analysis of international lying. Now a leading expert fills the gap with a richly informed and powerfully argued book.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Acclaim for Why Leaders Lie:

"Entertaining and well-written...this is a short and punchy book with a lot of lists and observations.... On its own terms, this book is an attempt to start a conversation about how lying operates in international politics. In that respect, it succeeds admirably, and contains a number of important avenues for future research."
—International Affairs

"Mearsheimer is one of the most prominent, productive and imaginative scholars in the realist school of international relations. In this brief, highly instructive volume he discusses how and why leaders have used deception, dissembling and outright lying in pursuit of foreign policy goals."
—The RUSI Journal

"Myth-makers beware! Writing with verve and economy, John Mearsheimer breaks new ground in exposing this hot-button issue to systematic scrutiny."
—Jack Snyder, Professor of International Relations, Columbia University

"Is lying in international politics a shameful behavior or a useful tool of statecraft? When is it good for leaders to lie to their own people? Is there too much—or too little—lying in international politics? John Mearsheimer answers these and other similarly explosive questions with the boldness and originality for which he is so well known. This is an insightful essay by one of the world's most provocative thinkers. A fascinating read."
—Moisés Naím, Senior Associate, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and former Editor-in-Chief, Foreign Policy

"This path-breaking study of lying in international politics is full of surprises. World leaders can lie to each other without suffering grave consequences, but they do it far less often than we might suppose. However, when leaders lie to their own publics about foreign policy conduct, significant damage can result—particularly in democracies. John Mearsheimer categorizes the various types of lies and weighs the risks of undertaking them in this insightful analysis that is so relevant to our times."
—James F. Hoge, Jr., Chairman, Human Rights Watch, and former Editor, Foreign Affairs

"In this fascinating little book, John J. Mearsheimer argues that lying about foreign policy is an intrinsic part of the democratic way of life. This is an important message for those members of democratic publics who wish to avoid being bamboozled by their leaders."
—Robert O. Keohane, Professor of Public and International Affairs, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Princeton University

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780199792863
Publisher:
Oxford University Press
Publication date:
01/07/2011
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
File size:
2 MB

Meet the Author

John J. Mearsheimer is the R. Wendell Harrison Distinguished Service Professor of Political Science and the co-director of the Program on International Security Policy at the University of Chicago. His books include The Tragedy of Great Power Politics, which won the Joseph Lepgold Book Prize, and New York Times bestseller The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy, which has been translated into twenty-one languages.

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