When the Cold War Turned Hot: Judging Dean Acheson's Judgment
Several decision makers involved in the decision-making process that culminated in a major fiasco recognized they "overinterpreted" or "misinterpreted" the Soviet objectives and role in the Korean War. Dean Acheson, who played a pivotal role in the decision-making process, admitted his "mistaken beliefs" about the Soviet Union led him to misinterpret its "sinister design" — only in retrospect and after a death toll that exceeded one million! His and other decision makers' misinterpretation also resulted in the overreaction of the U.S. to the event and the militarization of the U.S. approach to the Cold War that, in their view, just turned hot. Misjudgement is rife in international relations, and overreaction undertheorized. Decision makers invariably interpret events on the basis of existing beliefs and expectancy to draw inferences, some of which are "mistaken". This study albeit focusing on Dean Acheson and his beliefs draw on social psychology theories about beliefs, schema, magnitude of attitudinal change, and judgment to explain psychological dynamics that underpins "misinterpretation" and overreaction in world affairs.
Keywords: Beliefs, Misinterpretation, Judgment, Overreactions, Korean War
Dr. Taifa Yu
Associate professor, Political Science Department, University of Northern Iowa