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MIT 17 960 - Lecture Notes

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Class on Allison 1. Three approaches (i) Aim is to understand foreign policy decisions, understood in the first instance as action undertaken by a government. (ii) Proposing an approach to foreign policy, not to regularities of international politics, ala Waltz. In particular, all the focus here is on agency, no structure, structural causation (selection). Agents are either single rational decision makers; or members acting on logic of approrpriateness; or plurality of rational actors. (iii) What are the three approaches? (a) rational actor: the action results from the goals and beliefs of a decision maker who is assumed to have a coherent set of goals and to be taking what he/she believes to be effective means to achieving those goals (even if those means are not in fact effective). (b) organization theory: the decision results from actions within organizations that follow the routines of those organizations. (c) bargaining: the decision results from bargaining and argumentamong political leaders and heads of organizations, who are themselves rational agents but pursuing different goals. (iv) Are these competing ways of explaining a government decisions? They may be, if we focus on the case in which an action might be either the 1product of rational decision or of organizational routine. But there may also be cases in which an outcome is a product of a mix of rational and organizational factors. So suppose for example that the head of a firm decides to drop a product line because the firm’s routines make it hard to produce the product (rational decision structured by capacities), or routines are creating troubles (routines are dangerous) and rational decision is made to cease an activity as a way to avoid the danger (see 164). 2. Organization theory (i) Organizations, whether established to achieve an externally defined purpose or defined by internally generated purposes and identity, have: a division of labor with reasonably well-defined tasks and areas of responsibility; training in the performance of those tasks; standards of performance associated with different tasks; and in particular routines—or standard operating procedures—by which they work to achieve their goals (whether externally defined or self-defined). (ii) Members follow a “logic of appropriateness”: assess action not by their results (their contribution to the larger purpose of the organization) but by their conformity with rules or standards or values associated with positions in organization. [[Examples]] (iii) Decisions by government are (in part) the product of conduct that uses these procedures and follows this logic, not of a fresh assessment of 2which action will produce the best results. So we expect a bias for continuity: persistent patterns of conduct (as in the Pearl Harbor case). (iv) Leaders need to be attentive to the capacities of organizations in deciding what to do—what goals to pursue. Organizations, when they operate well, are blunt instruments that cannot easily be steered. (v) NB: If the organization is part of government, then there may be conflict between efforts of leaders (chief executive) to move the organization and results of organizational routine. And part of the issue is: when there are such conflicts, do we see results that flow from organizational routine, or are the routines overridden—or if not always overridden, then overridden during periods of crisis or high conflict. 3. What does organization theory help to explain? (i) Generically, used to explain outcomes that are hard to make sense of if wethink of the outcomes as the product of a single rational agent, pursuing goals in light of beliefs, or the product of a bargain or compromise among a plurality of agents with different goals. Instead, we see the result as the product of a routine or standard procedure, which (for one reason or another) cannot simply be adjusted to circumstances: establishing a capacity to adjust routines to circumstances (error detection capacity) would either conflict with goals of agents, or would defeat the purposes of having an organization. 3(ii) Problem: any outcome could be product of a rational agent: depends on the agent’s goals and beliefs. And any outcome could be the result of bargaining or compromise among rational agents: depends on what they are aiming at, and what their positions and beliefs are. No matter how ill-fitted an outcome is to a goal, nothing forces an organizational explanation. 4. Cuban Missile Crisis (i) Three questions about Cuban missile crisis: why the missiles were put in, and how was their insertion implemented; why did the US respond with a blockade (rather than doing nothing, talking to Castro, taking the missiles out with large air strikes, or invading with ground forces); and why did the Soviet Union respond by withdrawing the missiles. (ii) Rational actor view: (a) put the missiles in to get leverage on US with respect to Berlin: pressure the US to pull out, and keep the US from using force by threatening US territory. Not just Cold War bargaining, or protection of Cuba: (b) impose blockade/ultimatum because seen as middle way between doing nothing, which would be invitation to general political defeat and show a failure of resolve, and doing something that would directly lead to nuclear war; left next step to Khruschev; conduct conflict on favorable military terrain; (c) withdrawal because of concerns about US ultimatum, and threat of air strike or invasion. 4(iii) Organization theory question: So what anomalies are left by this account? What is hard to explain if we see the government decisions as products of rational agents pursuing goals? o With respect to putting the missiles in: (a) apparent insensitivity of Soviets to observation of missiles by U2 overflights: SAMs do not shoot down U2s; no camouflage for IRBMS or MRBMs; do not work at night, to hide work; sites are patterned on Soviet sites, so photos of the sites are that much easier to interpret: (b) inconsistency: why not get the MRBMs in first (less expensive and conspicuous); no protection from overhead observation despite care on the ships; trainers operational before combat aircraft (no protection); (c) contingencies for the missiles/launchers/warheads: no hardening of sites (first strike?); extra BM for each launcher (what is the reload plan?); (d) secret assignment of tactical weapons for battlefield and for coastal defense, which is not consistent with the idea of


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