Saturday, August 28, 2004

Lying in International Politics

I argue that there are four basic kinds: 1) inter-state lying, 2) fear-mongering, 3) nationalist myth-making, and 4) antirealist lying. Each type is designed to serve a different purpose, although a single lie can serve multiple purposes. I will describe each kind of lying and then lay out the strategic logic underpinning it, as well as when it is more or less likely to occur. In other words, I am going to explain why and when you get each of the four different kinds of international lying.

More here.

UPDATE: This is a good paper; I can't help but quote another chunk...

there is real potential for blowback with fear-mongering. This kind of lying is based on a certain amount of contempt for the public and for democratic processes. Elites, according to the logic, cannot trust the wider public to support the correct foreign policy if it is given a straightforward assessment of the threat environment. Therefore, it is necessary to inflate the threat, which often involves deploying lies about the adversary.

The problem here is that the elite’s contempt for the public is likely to spill over into the domestic realm as well. Once a state’s leaders conclude that the people do not understand important foreign policy issues and thus need to be manipulated, it is not much of a leap to employ the same line of thinking to domestic issues.
There is no doubt that there may be circumstances where the public is out to lunch and the elites have no choice but to fear-monger. However, it is also possible -- maybe even likely -- that the public is reasonably intelligent and responsible, and that the reason the elites are having difficulty making their case in the face of public doubts is that they are pushing a wrongheaded policy. If they had sound arguments, they would be able to defend them in the marketplace of ideas and not have to deceive the public. In such circumstances, the government’s policy is likely to have bad consequences.


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