Cases of Sending Troops

We often see people reasoning from a single case. When we studied examples of man-on-the-street interviews which focused on what the US should do about Central America, we found that all the respondents replied that the situation in Central America reminded of them of Vietnam, and that we should not send troops. Most Americans had one case in their memories about the effects of sending troops overseas and reasoned from that one case. When the Gulf War broke out, however, most Americans were in favor of American occupation. What happened to the Vietnam case? In the cases of Vietnam and Central America, we intervened in an internal conflict. Thus, the case Americans remembered might have had this label: "Sending American troops overseas to intervene in internal conflicts leads to failure."

The Gulf War, however, was precipitated by an invasion of a small country. In this case, Americans may have used this label: "Sending troops to help out country invaded by dictator." Now this case looks a lot more like World War II to most Americans, and most Americans feel World War II was a success. The fact that Saddam Hussein, after the invasion of Kuwait, was often compared to Adolph Hitler no doubt helped people make this connection.

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