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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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Shock Versus the Social Network

Shock Versus the Social Network

(p.119) 5 Shock Versus the Social Network
The Psychology of Strategy

Kenneth Payne

Oxford University Press

Advocates of air power have long argued that it can cause a rapid and decisive loss of will in enemy societies. Yet the evidence from the bombing of Vietnam suggests otherwise. This chapter draws on the psychology of shock and panic to discuss the effects of military force. Some US strategists sought a sharp escalation in the use of force, rather than a graduated campaign which might give the enemy time to adapt and adjust. Others advocated a measured escalation. All underestimated the extent to which Vietnamese society could cope, given its strong social identity, small industrial base, and limited logistical requirements, and also given the desire of the US not to escalate to a wider conflict or violate robust liberal norms.

Keywords:   bombing, air power, Vietnam, psychology, strategy, panic, escalation, shock

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