There is an article in the NYT about the Dunning-Kruger Effect, which refers to the idea that incompetent people are too incompetent to know they're incompetent.
Dunning and Kruger argued in their paper, “When people are incompetent in the strategies they adopt to achieve success and satisfaction, they suffer a dual burden: Not only do they reach erroneous conclusions and make unfortunate choices, but their incompetence robs them of the ability to realize it. Instead, like Mr. Wheeler, they are left with the erroneous impression they are doing just fine.”
This is crying out for application to U.S. policy toward Latin America, which is loaded historically with unintended consequences, blowback, and persistent application of policies despite their obvious failure. Most of the people making key decisions know little or nothing about Latin America, and in fact know so little that they are unaware of how little they know.
Explanations of the Cuba embargo, for example, often focus on how visceral hatred of Fidel Castro along with domestic constituencies cloud rational thinking (along these lines, see Morley and McGillion book Unfinished Business). What if we added the hypothesis that many policy makers continued to believe the embargo would work, and their own incompetence precluded awareness not only that they weren't working, but that they couldn't?