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Painful Choices by David A. Welch

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Chapter 1

SURPRISE, ANTICIPATION, AND THEORY

IMPORTANT DEVELOPMENTS in international politics tend to catch us by surprise. The standard litany of examples is familiar. No one thought that the assassination of Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand in June 1914 would lead to a general European war within five weeks. No one predicted the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. No one forecast the end of the Cold War. No one predicted Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait. Why is anticipating state behavior so difficult?

Part of the answer lies with the nature of the subject matter, and part lies with how we typically try to make sense of it. It goes without saying that predicting state behavior is not like predicting solar eclipses. Astronomers are good at ...

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