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 nobleFranklin 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.
|Publisher:||Oxford University Press|
|Product dimensions:||5.40(w) x 8.10(h) x 0.60(d)|
About 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.
Table of Contents
1. What is Lying?
2. The Inventory of International Lies
3. Lying Between States
5. Strategic Cover-Ups
6. Nationalist Myth-Making
7. Liberal Lies
8. The Downside of Telling International Lies
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
A well known pun says that all so called scientific fields that carry "science" in their name, aren't science at all. This is certainly true for Mearsheimer's political science and international relations where most writings are but sophisticated repackaging of one's prejudices and opinions. One has just to read some old issues of Foreign Affairs to discern the flaw in their theological approach. In all too few pages, Mearsheimer tackles an important and timely topic, but is crushed by the recent Wikileaks revelations and his own flawed approach.It is quite unclear why he assumed to be able to answer his topical question in so few pages (as Frankfurter has done in his seminal Bullshit). All he offers are a set of categories of lies with some US and international examples for each type. All of his three major topics (lying to their own population, lying to other governments, and lying to the international audience) are important and large topics in themselves which merit full-length book treatment. He also fails to develop a multi-actor perspective: From the president's plausible deniability approach to the professional liars called press secretaries and diplomats, there are vastly different expectations and practices regarding lying. Curiously, Mearsheimer does not discuss the house of cards of lies that made up the Soviet Union and its satellite states either.Mearsheimer's question actually cannot be answered (unless we suddenly develop mindreading capabilities). They lie because they can. Lying is a form of communication. Its success lies totally in the sphere of the liar's audience. Unfortunately, Mearsheimer fails to address this crucial topic. The interesting question is why so few politicians from Silvio Berlusconi to David Vitter to Bibi Netanyahu to George W. Bush pay a political price for their blatant lies. Has any of the recent Wikileaks revelations caused the end of a political career or shaming of a major politician? Politicians lie because they can and because some of their audience even rewards their lying. Why they can't handle the truth remains to be answered.