An analysis of groupthink's applications to the Vietnam and Iraq wars


It is difficult to know exactly why leaders and their advisors make decisions. Despite this, scholars have long attempted to gain insight into this largely unintelligible process, especially when the decision is acknowledged by many to be a poor one. In 1972, Irving Janis published a book that intended to explain why groups of seemingly rational and intelligent men could make disastrous decisions, a theory he named groupthink. When groupthink was first introduced, the Vietnam War was provided as an example of the theory in action. Though at the time Vietnam seemed like a plausible case of groupthink, declassified documents now available tell a decidedly different story. It is now evident that Lyndon Johnson agonized over the decision to send combat troops to Vietnam and that he did in fact seek the advice of people with an array of opinions on the best course of action in Vietnam. The application of groupthink to Vietnam becomes even weaker when compared to the cogent role groupthink played in the Iraq War. The Iraq War not only displayed symptoms of groupthink at an executive level, but precipitated it down into the lowest levels of government and the American people. Consequently, the Iraq War has thus far manifested itself as the most potent case of groupthink documented in modern times. While many of the symptoms found in Vietnam could be construed as coincidental, much of the groupthink symptoms found in the case of Iraq appear to be the result of careful calculation by the Bush administration.


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Thesis Completion





Houghton, David Patrick


Bachelor of Arts (B.A.)


College of Sciences

Degree Program

Political Science


Dissertations, Academic -- Sciences;Sciences -- Dissertations, Academic







Access Status

Open Access

Length of Campus-only Access


Document Type

Honors in the Major Thesis

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