Allison, Graham T. (1971) Essence of Decision.

Boston: Little, Brown and Co.


Preface Quote of JFK: "The essence of ultimate decision remains impenetrable to the observer -- often, indeed, to the decider himself" Introduction Three key questions: why did USSR place offensive missiles in Cuba? Why did US respond with naval quarantine? Why did USSR remove missiles? Plus: what are the lessons of this crisis? Main arguments of book: Analysists of foreign affairs proceed according to largely implicit conceptual models The primary model is that of a "Rational Actor" (Model I): events are understood as "more or less purposive acts of unified national governments" Model II: "organizational process model" III: "Governmental (Bureaucratic) Politics Model" 2nd model dependent on recent developments in org. theory 3rd sees outputs of govt as "resultants of various bargaining games among players in the national govt" Ch. 1: Model I: The Rational Actor Horelick and Rush study: USSR placed missiles to overcome US strategic supriority at low cost; goal could not have been mere defense of Cuba, since it would have been easier to use MRBM (medium-range) alone Similarly, much deterrence literature is in this Model Thus, "in a central nuclear war, the US would play out both its own and the antagonist's hand by calculating what rational actors would do at each point" "The question of what the enemy will do is answered by considering the question of what a rational, unitary genie would do." Advantage of the model is that it offers "an inexpensive approximation" There is a tendency to emphasize Model I when one has less info about workings of a govt; thus, analysts are aware of the complex factors that enter into US arms development strategy; not having this info for the USSR, they tend to infer rational objectives from the observed pattern of development. Model sees behavior as "action": that is, rational in relation to its objectives, and having consistent objectives Areas of use of action approach: "economic man" and game theory Model can assume "comprehensive" or "limited" rationality Cf PC for paradigm of Model I Variants of model: Can look at "national character" as specification of form of ratioanl action One can also posit that actions reflect preferences of a specific leader or clique, rather than of nation One can also use the basic model as a norm only Ch. 2 1st question is why USSR place missiles in Cuba: had never placed strategic nuclear weapons outside its own territory; even in September 1962, stated that it would not do so Action was taken in face of clear US warning in Sep. Seems that superpowers were signalling each other correctly on this At the first ExCom meeting of Oct. 16, after missiles were discovered, 1st question considered was Soviet objectives. Five hypotheses advanced: i) bargaining barter: Cuban missiles could be traded for US ones in




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But if deterrence were only goal. Yet this hypo is also weak: US would not strike missiles with 10. govt behavior should be seen as "ouputs of large orgs. placed burden of next move on Khrushchev. to prove the tide had turned. 12: Allison. kept other options open Why did USSR withdraw? Simplest answer is that it recognized US strategic superiority But did it withdraw in face of blockade only? Book argues that in fact the USSR backed down in face of US warnings that further actions would follow if the missiles were to become operational: invasion force was massing in Florida. To encourage attack. Govts define alternatives and estimate consequences as their component orgs. and that there was no guarantee that all missiles could be taken out. ii) A lightning rod: to provoke US attack on Cuba. invasion. This was hypo believed by JFK.. process information. each with a fixed set of standard 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 67 68 Wk. etc. since Soviets already in Cuba could proceed to make the missiles operational. but he was felt to be irrelevant.000 Soviet personnel stationed nearby. USSR had resisted Cuban demands for defense guarantees. but this is weak. functioning according to standard patterns of behavior" "At any given time. contingent of Soviet troops may have been enough. also weak because. Why place offensive missiles? iv) Cold War politics: A test of US will. which would have serious international costs for US: evidence for this hypothesis is that Soviets made little effort to camouflage missiles. if missiles were mere bargaining chip. where USSR had such a great strategic disadvantage? v) Missile power: emplacement was effort to eliminate US nuclear superiority. hard to understand why they wasted money on permanent IRBM (intermediate-range) sites. even while respecting the blockade But this last option had several advantages: did not constitute direct attack. Also. also. USSR would have turned missiles over to Cuban personnel. as control of missiles was in Soviet hands It was argued that invasion would provoke a Soviet move against Berlin Also debated was a "surgical strike": but Air Force warned that many people would be killed." Thus. why did USSR remove missiles prior to attack? iii) Cuban defense: this was Soviet explanation of the action. more likely that once the crisis was underway. air strike. but it was felt that this would only allow Khrushchev to buy time Also debated was a secret approach to Castro. but strong action by Castro in spring of 1962 against Moscow's men in Havana (eg purge of Annibal Escalante) may have forced issue. as opposed to doing nothing. why choose Cuba. if this were objective. but some details remain to be explained: why the ineptitude? Why weren't SAM's operative before missiles were in place? Why the omission of camouflage? Next question is why US responded with blockade. a govt consists of existing orgs. 3: Model II: Organizational Process "Govts perceive problems through organizational sensors. the USSR seized on barter as a way of cutting their losses. Opponents of blockade option argued that this would not address main problem. explicit warnings that further actions were coming Ch.45 47 50 52 Turkey. since 1960. But size of weapons commitment seems inconsistent with probe hypo. Diplomatic initiatives were considered. Page 2 . Castro stated to Claude Julien that USSR asked him to accept missiles to reinforce "the socialist camp the world over" This hypo is strong. because US was already commited to removing these missiles (did USSR know this???).

and procedures for moving to alert status Ch. 5 and Oct. which differs from the rationality of economic theory in various ways: Individuals factor complex problems into quasi-independent parts.71 72 75 76 78ff 99 Model draws on Simon's notion of "bounded rationality".. agents in Cuba. 12: Allison. without specifying details (is this realistic???) "Observers of organizational output are primarily attuned to persistence in established patterns. for their part. and then clumsiness once they were there? Why were the sites "soft" and vulnerable to US attack? Org analysis: missiles were shipped under control of soviet military intelligence. not maximizing "Orgs generate alternatives by relatively stable. Military may have simply been given an order to effect that missiles should be placed in Cuba. and U-2 flights: vast quantity of info of varying quality There was no U-2 flight over western end of Cuba between Sep. parcel parts of a problem out to various sub-orgs Search for solutions is satisficing. which had no experience in dealing with foreign intelligence GQ: cf PC Part of Soviet behavior may reflect problem of Khrushchev tyrying ot get military to do something it didn't want to do: military was suspicious of Khrushchev's adventurism.. then passed to Air Defense Command. Page 3 ." Orgs seek to avoid undertainty: develop choice procedures "that emphasize short-run feedback" Orgs and individuals develop repetoires of actions Cyert and March focus on org structure rather than market forces to explain firm's behavior Should focus on org's goals. difficulties taht arise from old programs played out in nex contexts. sequential search processes. analysis directed towards key question of enemy's control systems. why were they so insensitive to possibility of U-2 observance? SAM. As a result. leaders do have margin of choice in deciding which orgs will be assinged a given task Were there US "intelligence failures" before and during the crisis? Intelligence came from shiping data. and complications stemming from leaders' attempts to force orgs to act contrary to existing goals." Still. of use of model: nuclear strategy: in this case. slips between semi-independent orgs. expectations and choice Cf PC for paradigm summary Ex. which led to concerns that the whole U-2 program might have to be scrapped Shipping reports noted Soviet ships riding high in the water Why was there a 10 day delay between sep 4 order to fly over western Cuba. the menu is severely limited. 14: part of problem was shooting down of U-2 over China. and oct 14 flight? Note that the timing is crucial. refugees. they had not in fact been removed [JFK only finds out they are still there once the crisis is underway] Org analysis may be revealing in analysis of Soviet missile emplacement: eg. 4 1st mystery is why. process Thus. orgs. it is no longer assumed that stable balance of terror will guarantee no nuclear war: quite possible that missile might be fired as result of org. details of operations that follow form standard operating procedures. MRBM and IRBM sites in Cuba were built in exactly the same way as in USSR: no attempt at pretence Why was their such tremendous secrecy in shipment of missiles. as a later flight might have meant missiles were operational before discovery State Department was very concerned about consequences of losing plane 101 106 107 108 110 111 112 113 118 120 122 Wk. after JFK ordered missiles removed from Turkey.

not his. for partisan political reasons. coming during an election year In responding to Soviet charges. projection made on basis of scenario for massive attack on Cuba taken off the shelf and lightly modified during the crisis: thus. in light of Model II: letter from American leaders to Soviet leaders pleaded "that we both show prudence and do nothing to allow events to make the situation more difficult to control than it is. But in fact. because he had not been informed of the Soviet missile placement! 132 135 Ch. decision-makers asked for an evaluation of probable surgical strike outcomes." A series of govt games determined both when the missiles were discovered and the impact of that discovery One factor at work was Republican party criticism of Kennedy's weakness over Cuba. election was taken into account: one member of ExCom stated that failure to act would guarantee Republican majority in the House. 12: Allison. in Presidential Power: notes that President's inferiors "are bound to judge his preferences in the light of their own responsibilities. could not read the signs of activity.124 127 128 over Cuba The Air Force's evaluation of surgical strike outcomes (cf above) was faulty: basically. in Washington. and autonomy of local commanders Language of leaders is revealing. JFK could not seriously consider the nonforcible paths: do nothing or use diplomacy. in last week of Nov." 150 Examination of US action in Korean War: Macarthur approached Chinese border in Nov 1950. and they were given something quite different Navy resisted "political" meddling in their handling of the blockade: felt that once blockade was ordered. 5: Model III: Governmental Politics View of behavior as resultant 145 "the character of emerging issues and the pace at which the game is played converge to yield government 'decisions' and 'actions' as collages" 148 Ex. Macnamara initially argued such a path: he felt that missiles reflected a narrowing of the strategi gap that had been inevitable in any case McGeorge Bundy argued that diplomatic path would close no other options But when such paths had been ruled out. Page 4 . they should be given a free hand. decision then focussed on what type of military action: Acheson argued that blockade would simply delay the tough decisions 186 187 188 190 193 194 195 196 198 Wk. a Chinese counter-offensive began and drove US back down the Peninsula ("longest retreat in US history"): why was Macarthur allowed to threaten China? "each player [expected] that someone else would do what was required [to have Truman stop Macarthur]" 154 Cf PC on Lindblom model 162ff Cf PC on this paradigm Ch. avoiding confrontation Thus. at time that JFK was trying to hold back the hawks In discussions over what to do. JFK intervened directly. JFK stated that Soviet weapons in Cuba were purely defensive. 6 Note that those who do not like Model III may judge the details upon which it focusses to be "overly petty or personal. and in effect pinned himself down: he would have to respond if offensive weapons were found JFK's first response to finding of the missiles was something to the effect of "He cant to that to me!" Felt that Khrushchev had personally let him down. of this model is Neustadt's analysis of the Truman White House. Democratic Congressional leaders almost unanimously recommended air strike or invasion Thus. White House violated two principles of military org: chain of command." Appears that USSR was unaware of US discovery up to point of US public announcement: Dobrynin.

thus. Oct 24. but they were going to be removed in any case Did the US really give such a strong message to USSR that offensive missiles in Cuba would not be tolerated? There were in fact some signals that US leaders recognized soviet need to reestablish equality US interpretation of Soviet action may have erred in not recognizing that signals sent by US at time when USSR was making decision to put missiles in Cuba were somewhat different from the September signals. Khrushchev may not have intended a provocation But why did Khrushchev not reverse the decision.) were not his natural allies Air Force Chief of Staff Curtis LeMay(!) argued. JFK had promised earlier in week that the shooting down of a U-2 would lead to retaliation against a single SAM sight. that US should attack anyway! Communication between Khrushchev and JFK during crisis suggests their awareness of their common predicament vis a vis their own hawks Participants observed that JFK's prime concern was not to "disgrace Khrushchev" Appears that Khrushchev formed his own equivalent of ExCom: appears that he did not rely on the normal officials bodies. Page 5 . might be better to see the missile gambit as attempted solution to several problems: problem of relations with Cuba. or ask differnet questions? Model I sees govt behavior in terms of aggregated acts. the strategic imbalance. but on Saturday he hesitated. Ch.. Soviet leaders could have reasonably concluded that they were aimed at the US public. and then invoke Model II to explain certain anomalies --eg lack of camouflage] 213 214 215 219 223 225 227 230 232 234 235 247 251 253 256f 258 Wk. etc. blockade becomes a package of actions Model I is attractive because of a human tendency to attribute phenomena to actions [which explains mythology?] Cf PC on summary of models] We can models as complementary: "Model I fixes the broader context. against great opposition of Air Force chiefs of staff Also ordered. the larger national patterns. given that he had forced the original missile over the opposition of the military Even in the case of the storng messages.202 204 206 Rejection of the nonmilitary path had less to do with power of argument then with "intra-governmental balance of power" Similarly. clear that blockade was not working: Soviets had stepped out work on missiles already in Cuba Appears that Khrushchev offered to trade removal of missiles for US noninvasion pledge on Friday. for the other models. 7: Conclusion Model I seems quite "disembodied" in comparison with the other two Each model provides different "incentives for probing the facts": Thus. U-2 shot down over Cuba. we might note that one can use Model I to infer Soviet objectives in placing missiles in Cuba. By Wed. Rusk. Thus. but reversed course on Saturday. not at them In the end. calling for US removal of Turkey missiles Also on Saturday. on Saturday. with Model I. that missiles in Turkey be de-fused Robert Kennedy's message to Dobrynian was apparently that JFK could give no public pledge to remove Turkey missiles. once US signals became strong? It was probably politically impossible for him to do so. even after Khrushchev announced that missiles would be withdrawn. explanation stops when one has inferred a national objective that explains the actions observed Do the models provide different answers. etc. the coalition that formed behind the President's preference for an air-strike led him to pause! Supporters of his position (Chiefs of Staff. when the missiles were already been installed. 12: Allison." [Thus. blockade is a single act. McCone. such as Presidium.

12: Allison.259 Three models provide very very differnet lessons: Models II and III stress possibility of nuclear conflict.or rather simply a map of factors to which an analyst should be sensitive. even with a stable strategic balance "we must find new ways of thinking about improving the capabilities of the 'system' to select and implement actions" "Should the objective of studies of internal mechanisms of govts be an explicit statement of factors and relations --a series of simultaneous equations-. but which be must weigh and relate in his own gut?" 269 271 Wk. Page 6 .

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