Posted at 10.09.2018
Essence of Decision: Explaining the Cuban Missile Crisis'', by Graham Allison and Philip Zelikow examines the momentous Cuban Missile Crisis, that was one of the very most successful acts of diplomacy during the Cold War. Allison and Zelikow explore through three different 'conceptual lenses' accommodating the reader to look further into common methods of foreign policy analysis. Allison and Zelikow measure the events of the thirteen days in October 1962 to demonstrate the models of policy analysis from different perspectives. The authors provide ample historical reviews, evidence and documents of the events, and offers thorough analyses of the key time of the nuclear age by also presenting new methods to consider with foreign policy actions. The three conceptual models, which may be used to investigate policy actions; the Rational Actor, Organizational Behavior, and Governmental Politics Models are described and put on the Cuban Missile Crisis case. Each model demonstrates cool features and areas of the fundamental decisions created by both the USA and the Soviet Union through the crisis. Allison and Zelikow clarify that even though there is absolutely no whole knowledge of the situation as it just happened at that time, and it will never be likely, however using these three theoretical lenses it will help gain a closer understanding and much more of an awareness of all of the elements and the choices which were made at that time.
In this essay I'll attempt to draw some knowledge of the decisions america made to the Cuban Missile Crisis by using Allison's three conceptual lenses from the Essence of Decision, which is an analysis of the crisis itself and your choice making in the resolution procedure.
Graham Allison and Philip Zelikow present 'Model I' as the most commonly used method of evaluating foreign policy actions, this method is titled the Rational Actor Model, also called RAM. RAM is a way of understanding policy actions taken by states, by considering the country as a rational unitary actor. The rational framework is also the most regularly used method in deciding decisions between policy choices in the adoption and evaluation stages of the policy cycle. Whilst analysing an action undertaken by circumstances towards another state, the RAM presumes the actions occurred are intended, value maximising and strategic. The authors quote 'for each explanation an act involves showing what goal the federal government was pursing when it acted and how the action was a reasonable choice, given the nation's objective" (Allison & Zelikow, 1999, p. 15). This allows us to comprehend how people start making decisions, as it is performed implicitly, without the person unintentionally realising they are really doing it. The primary questions in the Essence of Decision book that were answered in regards to the crisis are; 'Why did the Soviet Union place offensive missiles in Cuba? Why did the united states respond to this step with a blockade around Cuba? And just why did the Soviet Union withdraw missiles in response?' Considering the situation in understanding the US decision-making a reaction to the actions, the RAM analysis considers after evaluating lots options, and considering Kennedy's goals, by assessing the grade of the seek out options and their respective outcomes, and check if the final choice promised to achieve his original goals to the extent that the decision-making process comes near this ideal model, we can say that it was rational (Allison 1999, p. 33), and a blockade could have the best chance of sending the desired message to Moscow without provoking a military response. Allison and Zelikow's Rational Actor Model, examines the question - of whether we can understand obviously the move made by a country in the international policy arena as a rational choice? For example, the idea of 'bounded rationality' appears evidently in foreign policy decision making, even though there is a central decision maker of circumstances, for example a leader or president that has supreme choice total courses of action, their rational decision making will be hindered by the actual fact that they have no idea what the opponent is thinking. This is referred back again to the Cuban Missile Crisis; where President Kennedy and his advisors, the ExCom's failed attempts at trying to understand why Khrushchev made sure decisions and actions. Because the international policy arena often handles competitive oppositional opponents who keep their true intentions hidden as a way of accomplishing what they want (Lindbolm, 1959, p. 113-127). President Kennedy becomes 'the driver of the debate' by making sure his team cautiously takes each step of the crisis to "probe deeper implications of every option. . . and to stretch their imagination" (Allison & Zelikow, 1999, p. 357) as the mass of diverting nuclear war cascades upon him. Thus helps us understand why the US made a rational decision with the blockade as it had several advantages, one being it did not constitute direct attack, secondly it located the responsibility of another move on Khrushchev, and also kept other choices open. That is when the USSR decided to withdraw, that is because it recognised US strategic superiority. The book argues that in fact the USSR backed down in face of US warnings that further actions would follow if the missiles were to be operational.
The second Model, Allison and Zelikow presents will be the Organisational Style of foreign policy. In this model, it is understood that countries and governments aren't unitary actors but are explained as 'vast conglomerate(s) of loosely allied organisations, each with a considerable life of its own' (Allison & Zelikow, 1999, p. 143). The authors state that 'Governments perceive problems through organisational sensorsthey define alternatives and estimate consequences as their component organisations. - And process information'' So, the federal government movements aren't much logical choices decided after by one central decision maker, but will be the productions of many organizations all 'functioning according to standard patterns of behaviour'. The consequences to consider with this organisational model illustrate that the value of looking at governmental actions this way gives us a understanding of why the United States made the decisions in this crisis. For example, practically all government actions in foreign policy are completed by organizations, whether it is the Forces or the CIA, in cases like this, the government carrying out the policies are divided with the military and intelligence agencies. Furthermore, organizational actions are also limited and known by standard operating procedures, using what has been done before. The model which the authors present provides us with a curious opportunity to go through the role of bodies that play in foreign policy making in different ways. In Model II, Allison and Zelikow present a way of taking a look at policy decisions that are completely well ordered by the bureaucracy, although it may not be the government that makes the decision. In understanding america decision-making process with Model II, the deliberations of the EX-Com that produced possible alternatives were alternatively answered by the organisations, 'What specifically, could be done?' (Allison & Zelikow, 1999, p. 225). President Kennedy's actions were limited by the particular military organisations could do, since their actions and decisions made were supported with experience and previous choices in foreign policy. Essence of Decision illustrates that organisational capacities are fundamental in international policy making. Model II also allows us to understand examples of how organizational behaviours shake the implementation of certain policies. For instance, the situation by the Soviet troops lack of camouflage of the missiles in Cuba, and President Kennedy rushing to control with the test flights over Soviet air space. If this occurred following the crisis had begun, there could have started a nuclear war due to wrong interpretation other than a test flight. This example suggests that there's always more to the situation of the rational decision. The authors allow us to look over other 'lenses' to provide us more of an understanding of the way the US made sure decisions throughout the crisis.
The third model that Allison and Zelikow illustrate in the Essence of Decision is the Governmental Politics model also called the Bureaucratic model. Model III involves policy actions as a process where state actors bring their personal thoughts, opinions and ideas together to attain separate goals and decide upon a plan of action collectively, which may conflict with each other. In Essence of Decision the authors make clear why 'it is essential to recognize the games and players, to show the coalitions, bargains and compromises, and to convey some feel for the confusion" (Allison & Zelikow, 1999, p. 257). In cases like this, various individuals, representing various organisational interests engage in a process to accomplish a negotiated group decision, which will represent the policy of a state. Through the Crisis all US decisions were created by ExCom, President Kennedy's inner circle of advisors that were composed together designed for the missile crisis. Allison and Zelikow discussed the Ex-Com members and their ideas, the importance of the Cuban issue to Kennedy, and generally try to illustrate an overall political atmosphere behind the U. S. decisions. Allison proposed in the book that due to failure of Bay of Pigs invasion, the Republicans in the United States congress made Cuban policy into a major issue for the upcoming congressional elections later in 1962. Therefore President Kennedy decided on a solid response rather than a diplomatic one. Although nearly all ExCom primarily favoured air strikes, those closest to the president, (his brother Attorney General, Robert Kennedy and Special Council General Theodore Sorensen) favoured the Blockade. At exactly the same time Kennedy got himself into disputes with supporters of the environment strikes, such as Force General Curtis Lemay. Following the Bay of Pigs fiasco, Kennedy also distrusted the CIA and their advice. This combination of push and pull resulted in the implication of an blockade. (Essence of Decision Presentation, u. d) Because of the nature of many foreign policy decisions and the ultimate importance of the decisions they try to make, the general public and congress can generally defer any decision-making powers to the president even if indeed they know the problem. For instance, essentially of Decision, we see that the president makes his decision rapidly and through complete blankness, where there have been no influence from Congress, or the public as these were unacquainted with the actions before White House made the statements. Allison and Zelikow mention a few times in Essence of Decision how different the situation of the Missile Crisis would be if it had happened nowadays with the immense public knowledge forcing decisions within hours rather than days. As it was, the president only were required to challenge with the rivalry of ideas of his team of advisory. They brought in organizational and political thoughts from the top of agencies including the military, which all had their own aims and objectives within the complete situation. As Wildavsky states, the president can nearly always gain support for his foreign policies, however "his problem is to discover a viable policy" (1966, p. 237). For most parts of the politics Kennedy had to perform, were very limited compared to the domestic policy situations that occur. This model in comparison to the first two models might not exactly illustrate an informative policy analysis, nonetheless it does give a strong case in understanding why Kennedy came to the decision of a blockade. With essentially no judgment from the populous, the tiny governmental group made their decisions that can have meant life or death of thousands of people. Thankfully, the Cuban Missile Crisis was settled by US's decisions.
Graham and Zelikow's Essence of Decision: Explaining the Cuban Missile Crisis helps us understand US's decision-making throughout the thirteen days by allowing us to look over three distinctive conceptual models. The three models shown throughout the book may be used to help understand policies at any level, from domestic to foreign. Looking at actions by governments by having a rational, organisational and political lens seems necessary to grasp the moves that Kennedy took and the game Khrushchev played. I really believe we are used to taking a more full method of accepting domestic and local policy decisions because were more alert of the aspects entering the decisions. This book helps us understand why Kennedy and ExCom made a rational decision after evaluating options which range from doing nothing to a full invasion of Cuba, and then finally a blockade was selected because it wouldn't necessarily escalate into war, as well as forcing the Soviets to help make the following move. The organisational process model allowed us to understand how Kennedy operated under time and information constraints whilst participating in 'satisficing' behaviour. Kennedy and Excom hardly ever really considered some other options aside from the blockade or air strikes, and in the beginning were almost solidly towards mid-air strikes. However, such attacks created huge doubt as a result of US Air Force, as they cannot guarantee it could disable all nuclear missiles. The blockade felt to be the safest option in that case. The bureaucratic politics model also helped us understand Kennedy and ExCom's different level of power based on charisma, personality, skills of persuasion and personal ties to the top of the decision maker. Even whilst sharing the matching goals, the leaders contrast in the way they accomplish it because of elements such as personal interests and background. All of these have an impact on why the united states made certain decision on choosing the blockade. This book constructs us to grasp why international decisions are created, and helps simplify why rational reasons are behind certain actions. Applying the organisational process model and the governmental model to the foreign policy actions it offers us an insight to the possibilities of miscommunication, misunderstandings and disagreements that can also happen in such situations more than what we believed. Overall, Essence of Decision has helped with an extent with relevant information and evidence to aid Allison and Zelikow's three conceptual models, with a knowledge of why the United States decided to choose the blockade option.