Houghton, David Patrick

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Houghton, David Patrick


Education: University of Sheffield, B.A., 1989; University of Pittsburgh, M.A., 1992, Ph.D., 1996.


Office—Department of Political Science, Colbourn Hall 407D, 4000 Central Florida Blvd., University of Central Florida, Orlando, FL, 32816-1356. E-mail—[email protected]


Political scientist, educator, and writer. University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA, teaching assistant, 1990-92, teaching fellow, 1992-96; University of Essex, Essex, England, lecturer in international relations, 1996-2003, joint director of M.A. program in American government and politics, 1997-2001, director of B.A. program in politics and international relations, 1999-2001, director of M.A. in international relations program, 2000-03; University of Central Florida, Orlando, assistant professor, 2000-08, associate professor of political science, 2008—. Visiting scholar, Mershon Center for International Security Studies, Ohio State University, Columbus, 2001-02.


NALGO Prize in Political Theory & Institutions, University of Sheffield, 1989; Kennedy Research Grant, John F. Kennedy Library, 1994; Choice Outstanding Academic Title award winner, 2002, for U.S. Foreign Policy and the Iran Hostage Crisis.


U.S. Foreign Policy and the Iran Hostage Crisis, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 2001.

(With David McKay and Andrew Wroe) Controversies in American Politics and Society, Blackwell Publishers (Malden, MA), 2002.

Political Psychology: Situations, Individuals and Cases, Routledge (New York, NY), 2008.

Contributor to Encyclopaedia of Global Perspectives on the United States: Issues and Ideas Shaping International Relations, Volume 3, edited by Karen Christensen and David Levinson, Berkshire Publishing, 2007. Contributor to periodicals, including Security Studies, Policy Sciences, Political Psychology, and the British Journal of Political Science.


David Patrick Houghton is a political scientist whose primary research and teaching interests are political psychology, foreign policy decision-making, and American foreign policy. In his first book, U.S. Foreign Policy and the Iran Hostage Crisis, the author analyzes the Iran hostage situation that began on November 4, 1979, when Iranian students took over the American embassy in Tehran and subsequently held the embassy's staff hostage for more than a year. In his look at the U.S. government's response to this crisis, Houghton examines many aspects of the situation, including the reason why Iranian students seized the embassy and why President Jimmy Carter launched a rescue mission, which the author describes as a spectacular failure when it was aborted and cost the lives of eight American service personnel.

According to Political Science Quarterly contributor Barbara Farnham, the author presents his case that "the major decisions surrounding this episode can best be explained as the product of analogical reasoning." Farnham pointed out: "Much of this book … deals with the American side of the decision-making, and there are a number of analytical reasons … for looking at the Carter administration's decision making during the hostage crisis rather than some other case study. Principal among these is its status as a ‘hardest case to prove’ for the analogical reasoning argument to be elaborated on."

Houghton begins his book by looking at Jimmy Carter's foreign policy approach and then at the origins of the takeover crisis. He writes about the waiting game that the administration first played with Iran, as well as the decision to launch a rescue mission. "The pressure on Carter to act decisively, to do something which would bring the crisis to its resolution and bring the hostages home, had been immense," Houghton writes in his book. "From the very beginning, the hostage crisis had exerted a striking effect on ordinary Americans, who gradually became as obsessed as Carter with the fate of their countrymen."

The author goes on to provide an in-depth analysis of one of the United States' greatest foreign policy disasters up to that time. Houghton summarizes his theory of what led to the bad decision making concerning the hostage crisis: "The argument … [is] threefold: first we … propose that the decisions taken during the crisis—including the decision by the Iranian students to seize the embassy and Carter's fateful decision to mount the rescue operation—were critically affected by a barrage of historical analogies." The author goes on: "Secondly, it is further proposed that what psychologists have termed availability and repre-sentativeness of the historical analogies drawn upon by both sides had a crucial effect." The author explains the third part of his analysis this way: "Finally, the analogies used, we … contend, were not merely rhetorical flourishes designed to convince others of the desirability of various options after the fact."

Throughout the book, the author relies on historical documents and on interviews with key decision makers on both sides of the conflict. The hostages were held for a total of 444 days, and the crisis was considered to be a key factor in Carter's loss to Ronald Reagan in the 1980 presidential election. The hostages were formally released on January 20, 1981, after Reagan took office. The crisis ultimately marked the beginning of a long-standing enmity between the United States and Iran, including the start of legal sanctions by the United States aimed at economically punishing Iran. Farnham noted that U.S. Foreign Policy and the Iran Hostage Crisis "provides a clear account of the analogical reasoning model and uses available sources well to provide an interesting description of the deliberations in the Carter administration surrounding the Iranian hostage crisis."



Houghton, David Patrick, U.S. Foreign Policy and the Iran Hostage Crisis, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 2001.


American Political Science Review, September, 2002, review of U.S. Foreign Policy and the Iran Hostage Crisis, p. 690.

Choice, March, 2002, J.D. Stempel, review of U.S. Foreign Policy and the Iran Hostage Crisis, p. 1319.

Political Science Quarterly, summer, 2002, Barbara Farnham, review of U.S. Foreign Policy and the Iran Hostage Crisis. p. 334.

Prairie Schooner, summer, 2002, review of U.S. Foreign Policy and the Iran Hostage Crisis, p. 334


University of Central Florida Political Science Department Web site,http://politicalscience.cos.ucf.edu/ (April 14, 2008), faculty profile.