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The Psychology of StrategyExploring Rationality in the Vietnam War$
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Kenneth Payne

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780190227234

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190227234.001.0001

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Honour, Revenge and Reputation

Honour, Revenge and Reputation

(p.89) 4 Honour, Revenge and Reputation
The Psychology of Strategy

Kenneth Payne

Oxford University Press

Groups and individuals alike gauge their standing relative to others, for sound evolutionary reasons. During the Vietnam War, Presidents Johnson and Nixon both exhibited a thin-skinned vulnerability to slights. US strategy itself was marked by a tendency to escalate in pursuit of credibility. This chapter describes some of the underlying psychology, notably that of revenge and altruistic punishment. These are illustrated with a discussion of the Rolling Thunder campaign of graduated bombing in Vietnam, and of President Nixon’s “madman” theory, in which he might rapidly escalate the level of violence to unbalance his adversary.

Keywords:   Lyndon Johnson, Nixon, psychology, madman, revenge, reputation, credibility, Vietnam War, Rolling Thunder

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