Indifferent to Consequences

  • Michael J. Mazarr


In March 1965, Lyndon Johnson agonized over a request for Marine battalions to defend US missile and aircraft sites in Vietnam. In a March 6 telephone call with Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, captured on the White House recording system, Johnson worried that the Marines would end up “fighting with the Vietcong and really starting a land war.” He summed up the discussion with what must be one of the most tragic remarks ever uttered by an American president: “My answer is yes,” he told McNamara. “But my judgment is no.”1


Risk Management National Security Hedge Fund Financial Industry Senior Executive 
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  1. 1.
    Johnson quoted in Michael Beschloss, ed., Reaching for Glory: Lyndon Johnson’s Secret White House Tapes, 1964–1965 (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2001), 214–215.Google Scholar
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    Imperative-driven thinking can be a function of naturalistic approaches. In naturalistic models of decision-making, decision-makers quickly choose “a ‘promising’ alternative” rather than the optimal one, and then often engage in the “restructuring of preferences and beliefs to accentuate its superiority over other alternatives.” Such a process, which involves a relatively quick, and often highly intuitive, endorsement of the first reasonable alternative, imperatives can play a dominant role, shaping the choice of what that alternative should be. See Raanan Lipshitz, “The Road to Desert Storm,” Organization Studies, Vol. 16, No. 2 (1995), 243–244, 247.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    Michael Lewis, “The Man Who Crashed the World,” in Graydon Carter, ed., The Great Hangover (New York: Harper Perennial, 2010), 106, 116.Google Scholar
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    Roger Lowenstein, When Genius Failed: The Rise and Fall of Long Term Capital Management (New York: Random House, 2000), 84.Google Scholar

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© The Author(s) 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael J. Mazarr
    • 1
  1. 1.RAND CorporationArlingtonUSA

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