Irving Janis's work on groupthink has attracted considerable attention from those who seek to explain foreign-policy decision making. The basic argument – that excessive esprit de corps and amiability restrict the critical faculties of small decision-making groups, thereby leading to foreign-policy fiascos – is both an appealing and a stimulating one. In addition, it is also an argument that is capable of being tested against empirical evidence. Thus, Frank Heller has suggested that groupthink may be very useful in explaining British policy during the Falklands Crisis. The purpose of this note is to indicate the utility of the notion of groupthink in explaining one recent foreign-policy fiasco, the attempt by the United States to rescue its hostages in Tehran.
* School of Economic and Social Studies, University of East Anglia. I would like to thank the University of East Anglia School of Economic and Social Studies research committee for financial assistance in supporting the research for this paper.