Uncertainty surrounds every major decision in international politics. Yet there is almost always room for reasonable people to disagree about what that uncertainty entails. No one can reliably predict the outbreak of armed conflict, forecast economic recessions, anticipate terrorist attacks, or estimate the countless other risks that shape foreign policy choices. Many scholars and practitioners therefore believe that it is better to keep foreign policy debates focused on the facts - that it is, at best, a waste of time to debate uncertain judgments that will often prove to be wrong.
In War and Chance, Jeffrey A. Friedman shows how foreign policy officials often try to avoid the challenge of assessing uncertainty, and argues that this behavior undermines high-stakes decision making. Drawing on an innovative combination of historical and experimental evidence, he explains how foreign policy analysts can assess uncertainty in a manner that is theoretically coherent, empirically meaningful, politically defensible, practically useful, and sometimes logically necessary for making sound choices. Each of these claims contradicts widespread skepticism about the value of probabilistic reasoning in international politics, and shows how placing greater emphasis on assessing uncertainty can improve nearly any foreign policy debate.
A clear-eyed examination of the logic, psychology, and politics of assessing uncertainty, War and Chance provides scholars and practitioners with new foundations for understanding one of the most controversial elements of foreign policy discourse.