a1 University of California, Los Angeles
Historians, among others, expose the lies and deceptions of politicians, dead and alive. But historians themselves often are deceived by the limitations of their own approaches to history. While they themselves may act emotionally or sometimes irrationally in their personal lives, they are too often committed to seek rational explanations for the behavior of statesmen. Grossly understimates in many instancees is the power of retionalization as a factor in the ‘decisionmaking process.’ Often great decisions have been made on the basis of inadequate or false information, with consequences that the decision-makers could not foresee. Sometimes decisions are the result of muddleheadedness. Sometimes a governmental decision seems to be the product of a succession of miscalculations. But it is the natural impulse of those in positions of authority to justify their decisions by some explanations that relate to their zeal for the ‘national interest.’ In so doing they do not necessarily deliberately lie; often they deceive themselves as well as others. Reasons developed after the fact provide a cerebral gloss for unintellingent decisions leading to unintended actions. The background for the occupation of Egypt in 1882 provides an illustration.