Essence of Decision: Explaining the Cuban Missile Crisis

Essence of Decision: Explaining the Cuban Missile Crisis

  • Kindle Edition
  • 416 pages
  • Essence of Decision: Explaining the Cuban Missile Crisis
  • Graham T. Allison
  • English
  • 11 February 2015

10 thoughts on “Essence of Decision: Explaining the Cuban Missile Crisis

  1. Ana Ana says:

    A difficult read but totally worth it This book analyzes the steps which led to an almost nuclear war in 1962 between the Soviet Union and USA It uses three models to express three different layers of analysis making it easy for the reader to follow the reasoning behind them Recommend it if you're interested in the subject

  2. CJ CJ says:

    In a way this is two parallel books One book explains various theories from political scienceinternational relations about how to understand and predict government decision making It touches on the origin use misuse critiues and benefits of these models the rational actor model the organizational behaviorism model and the political game model The other book explains the Cuban missile crisis through each of the above models The book explains how those models explain different parts of the Cuban missile crisis differently better? I liked the book but I haven't read much international relations so most of the book was new to me

  3. Knarik Knarik says:

    “Use of a microscope rather than a telescope produces a different image of the same fundamental reality”“A Model I analyst can generate various hypotheses about why the Soviet Union decided to send nuclear missiles to Cuba to defend Cuba rectify the strategic nuclear balance or provide an advantage in the confrontation over Berlin With details about the chronology of Soviet decisionmaking and the particular deployment the Cuban defense hypothesis becomes less plausible and the missile power hypothesis But as the Model I analyst includes still information about Khrushchev his personal stakes and commitments and what he said and thought at the time much of it newly available the story acuires a new shape linking the missile power hypothesis to a strategy for success in Berlin The explanation is reinforced by Khrushchev’s personal emphasis on Berlin prior to the missile crisis and his abandonment of it after the missiles in Cuba were withdrawn This was the missing piece in the “rational actor” puzzle Thompson posed about Khrushchev’s Berlin policy in the summer of 1962The American decision to respond with a blockade reflects for the Model I analyst Kennedy’s reasoning revealed for the first time by the secret tapes He sees his choice as one between a nuclear crisis over Cuba in October or a nuclear crisis over Berlin—and under less advantageous circumstances—in November An attack on Cuba could provoke a riposte against Berlin A blockade applied only to items not being transported to Berlin seems a logical middle ground The United States announces its demand displays its resolve leverages its local military superiority—all without a “a direct attack The tapes and other newly declassified documents reveal a complex set of options than previously understood including two critically different variants of the blockade For the Model I analyst the Soviet decision to yield follows logically from the United States’ combination of strategic and theater military superiority once American resolve becomes evidentModel II focuses attention on what the relevant government organizations could do could not do and would be disposed to do without magisterial direction Many aspects of the Soviet deployment to Cuba could not be explained by Model I“For the Model II analyst Kennedy’s choice of a blockade is a choice foreshadowed by the preexisting capacities of large organizations an Air Force that cannot deliver the strike Kennedy wants and a Navy that can organize a blockade that achieves Kennedy’s goals But this blockade creates new dangers for example conducting antisubmarine tactics against submarines that unbeknownst to Washington were nuclear armed Kennedy sets his military forces in motion to signal Khrushchev but the Model II story again sets in motion vast organizational actions that interact with others in frightening ways that the president can barely imagine try as he does for example in the case of the Emergency Defense Plan for Turkey When Jupiter missiles in Turkey become a focal point in the crisis new evidence reveals that Kennedy encountered a State Department that had plugged his concerns into its preexisting plans for a multilateral nuclear force however irrelevant that plan was to the exigencies of a nuclear crisis”“Model III dissects Khrushchev’s decisionmaking under a powerful new light revealing his appreciation of the situation to have been cloudy at best his judgments bereft of any attribute of high uality deliberations Relying on haphazard and often incorrect information and without any sustained analysis of the sort commonplace in the American process he manages a sullen sporadic group of advisors and rivals Indeed his most competent expert on American affairs is not even informed that the missiles are being deployedIn Washington discovery of the Soviet missiles is a story of a political tug of war between powerful officials “Model III also reinterprets the choice of the blockade Days of deliberation pass before a blockade option can be formulated in a way that attracts Kennedy’s support and the formulation comes from Republicans and a career diplomat One of the president’s most valued advisors Bundy veers from advocating doing nothing one day waiting for the coming confrontation in Berlin to supporting an air strike the next1 Another critical adviser McNamara is revealed to have been the leading “dove” in the first week’s deliberations supporting the blockadenegotiatetrade approach But in the second week he seems so resigned to military action that he sees new virtues and possibilities in trying a surprise attack against CubaIn the final resolution of the crisis Model III helps us see new dynamics”“Model III uncovers subtle differences between perspectives shared by Kennedy and Khrushchev and views of their colleagues—differences that proved decisive in finally resolving the crisis”“For Model III Kennedy and Khrushchev remain key characters in the story But it is a story in which they are informed misled persuaded or ignored by the officials around them in some cases for better and in some for worse Almost every day the choices the leaders must make are reshaped by the way information and circumstances are brought to them for action Model III also sees the leaders as influenced by their place and peculiar responsibilities the singular burden that falls on the one person with ultimate authority to order nuclear war It is a lonely burden the president and the chairman share and at the climax of the crisis a bond that helps them find a way outThe need for all three lenses is evident when one considers the causal bottom line The painful “but for which” test demands that one identify major factors but for which the outcome would not have occurred or would have been materially different”“To explain the blockade the Model I analyst examines the US strategic calculus the problem posed by the Soviet missiles relevant American interests the relation to other commitments like the defense of Berlin and US capabilities versus those of the Soviet Union Explanation means placing the blockade in a pattern of purposive response to the strategic problem For our Model II archetype given the need for action the particular “solution” is the by product of organizational behavior The analyst emphasizes organizational capacities and constraints both in choice and implementation Organizational behavior explains identification of the problem on October 14 rather than two weeks earlier or later; organizational routines defined the options; organizations implemented the blockade Explanation starts with existing organizations and their repertory of routines at t 1 and attempts to account for what is going on at time t The Model III analyst makes vivid the action of players in the relevant games that produced pieces of the collage that is the blockade Bargaining among players who shared power but saw separate problems yielded discovery of the missiles on a certain date in the context of a given policy debate; definition of the problem in a way that demanded action; emphasis on subsets of options from the menu of possibilities; and imagination in analyzing some issues and weakness in analyzing others The blockade eventually emerges from the mix of these considerations In the absence of a number of particular characteristics of players and games the action chosen would have been materially different”Excerpt From Allison Graham

  4. gaby gaby says:

    What a fun read on the 50th anniversary of the Cuban missile crisis An engaging book about different models of government and leadership behavior each told through the example of this strange and fascinating moment in diplomacy and chance Recommended for students and citizens interested in organizational theory game theory bureaucratic theory and yes the Cuban missile crisis

  5. Linda Linda says:

    The best org behavior book i've read to date

  6. C. Patrick C. Patrick says:

    As Theodore Sorensen recalled “our little group seated around the Cabinet table in continuous session that Saturday 27 October 1962 felt nuclear war to be closer on that day than at any time in the nuclear age” This book is an excellent analysis of the decisions that brought the two countries extraordinarily close to war It approaches the analysis by framing through three conceptual models which effectively broke the book into thirds The three politicaldecision science chapters that elaborated on each of the study models could be tough sledding but generally necessary to understand the analysis with each subseuent chapter that returned to the Cuban missile crisis case study There is a lot here for the armchair historian as well as the government and military practitioners in the foreign affairs arena

  7. Billy Billy says:

    In this update of the Ernest May original Graham Allison and Philip Zelikow’s Essence of Decision offers three different models through which to interpret the Cuban Missile Crisis The first model the Rational Actor Model or RAM provides a paradigm that describes rational actors’ methods to maximize political and diplomatic utility The second model the Organizational Behavior Model accounts for the influence of organizations and institutions on decision making processes The third and final model which focuses on governmental politics examines how separated institutions share power and the effects of group processes on decision making Each of the book’s three sections begins by explaining a particular model and then finishes by applying that model to the events of October 1962 The result is a thought provoking but inconclusive look at the most dangerous thirteen days of the atomic era Allison and Zelikow never take a firm stance on the correct method of analysis for the crisis The end result is a book meant to inform and advise policymakers on how to read this historic event that never actually does so What the book does make clear is the influence economic theory has had on IR theory and policy decisions For example the first chapter’s use of the Rational Actor Model is clearly based on the homo economus givens used in nearly all economic models The connections that Allison and Zelikow fail to make however provide a interesting analysis than the book’s contents Put simply the authors never explicitly recognize how their models are based in a western economic tradition These models rely heavily on the maximization of utility and the minimization of threat or danger The minimax theorem as first formulated in 1944 by John von Neumann and Oskar Morgenstern seems to have influenced all policy decisions of the Cold War Keynesian economics of government intervention combined with Chandler’s insights into the rise of the managerial class combine with game theory to provide an almost fatal mistake of nuclear proportion Von Neumann and General Curtis LeMay both endorsed a first strike against the Soviet Union at early points in the Cold War based on such logic The authors also never effectively show how both sides of a nuclear balance reuire eual information of the effects and repercussions resulting in a first or second strike MAD establishes this balance Put simply they pronounce their biases of political and diplomatic theory by espousing models based in western economic logic Yet these models are applied to a situation in which the other side the USSR based its political ideology in opposition to such western based economic theories Why is this divide never examined? How stable was the balance between the nuclear superpowers if each side based their diplomacy on completely different ideologies? In all fairness these critiues do not address the book on its own merits Yet these comments reveal an unforeseen argument inherent in Essence of Decision It is a work that offers no conclusive advice on how to approach policymaking yet Allison and Zelikow have utilized modernity based models and economics to endorse a sort of post modern inconclusiveness If nothing else the book shows just how lucky the superpowers were in escaping nuclear war in October of 1962

  8. Seth Benzell Seth Benzell says:

    I picked up Essence of Decision second edition being discarded at MIT Sloan Despite only rating this book at 3 stars I do not regret picking it up While uite dry the book takes a uniue approach mixing day by day detailed history with abstract theory I went into this book knowing about the Cuban Missile Crisis in only a vague sketchy way I felt comfortable with IR theory having minored in it at Tulane I could only take the book's claims about the missile crisis at face value I definitely disagreed with or found unhelpful with a bunch of the theoryThe book alternates theory chapters with analysis of the Cuban Missile Crisis through the lens of the previous chapter's theory The book considers three models of international politics which it calls the 'Rational Actor' model the 'Organizational Behavior' model and the 'Governmental Politics' model All of these models especially the first because it is the simplest come in different flavors IMHO the book's strongest section was the analysis of the Missile Crisis under the first mode In the first section the book makes a compelling case that Khrushchev's decision to place missiles in Cuba had nothing to do with protecting Cuba Rather it was an attempt to change the balance of missile power despite having run on the idea of a 'Missile Gap' the US actually had a tremendous nuclear advantage over the USSR at this point and ultimately strengthen Khrushchev's hand when a conflict was anticipated to emerge over Berlin later in the year Had the missiles been secretly installed and revealed as a fait accomplis Khrushchev would have been seen as a strategic genius As it was the missiles were discovered The US response of a blockade was optimal it leveraged the strong US tactical advantages eg in naval power in the Carribean without escalating to outright war Khrushchev's capitulation was inevitable The other historical sections fill in some missing details The organizational behavior section while an absolute dumpster fire in terms of theoretical content as far as I can tell it just argues that organizations should be modeled predictively and then proceeds to make a list of things that 'might go wrong' in the transmission of leaders' intent lists how some of the most important events in the missile crisis were not the result of high level decision making The American delay in detecting the missile installation the preposterous Russian decision to barely attempt to hide their installations the seuence of blunders that almost led to a conflict between US ships and a nuclear armed submarine US diplomats' failure to prepare Turkey for a reuest for missiles to be removed These are indeed important examples of events that happen to leaders rather than vice versa The governmental politics section fleshes out the personalities and behaviors of the leaderships Notably while Kennedy surrounded himself with foreign policy and military experts Kr tended to make decisions solo or with political advisers Also fascinating is the fact that Kennedy's offer to trade the missiles in Turkey for the ones in Cuba was made without the knowledge of most of his advisers This book has several failings that prevent me from rating it highly Most importantly while the flavors of realism are well articulated and distinguished the other two models were not The organizational behavior theory section comes off as a long list of 'shit that organizations do sometimes' the governmental politics section also has one of these long ass lists The governmental politics section referred to as 'rational choice' in passing a political economy paradigm I am pretty familiar with does little to clarify itself beyond 'governments are made of individuals' This third category combines elements that I would have called 'realism' in undergrad IR such as the idea that leaders have goals other than national power elements that I would have called 'liberalism' such as the idea that 'where you sit determines where you stand' eg we should be unsurprising that the Air Force general suggests a bombing campaign will solve the problem and elements I would call 'constructivism' the idea that how a problem is solved owes much to how the problem is framed and the ideologies of the people solving the problem So to me the third and second models didn't feel particularly unified Also did I mention the book gets super dry for something about WW3? As for the first third of the book one element of the strategic interaction that was left out was the role of brinksmanship This is the idea that any nuclear showdown is a game of chicken in which the side with the least to lose will refuse to back down Based on my previous knowledge of the Cuban Missile Crisis especially the discussion of brinksmanship in Games of Strategy this is a glaring ommission Brinksmanship appears only once in the indexSome additional specific observationsMcNamara comes off as a fucking hero He is one of the smartest guys in the room talks the hawks out of a hasty bombing campaign and is one of the early proponents of blackhawk oversights and the blockade It's really sad how bad he failed in Vietnam he had potential I love the Bobby JFK dynamic that emerges Dynamic bro duo The book has much less to say about the Soviet side of decision making Understandable given data limitations but a real disappointment The book could have really used a detailed timelineThe book is full of crazy mostly unhelpful figures like these It was theoretical messiness like this that led me into econ and away from pol sci but not urgently recommended

  9. Mark Jacobsen Mark Jacobsen says:

    Essence of Decision is a classic for a reason For anyone who cares about government decision making it is hard to find another single book as practical and useful While the treatment of the Cuban Missile Crisis is fascinating the book's greatest value is its presentation of multiple lenses for analyzing decisions the rational actor model the organizational model and the political model The book will be especially illuminating for those who have only ever been exposed to the rational actor model It will also be helpful to those who can see organizational and political dynamics at work in decision making but who are searching for greater clarity in how these factors work

  10. Richard Richard says:

    This book illustrates how decisions can be analyzed retrospectively including a taste of how different theories of decision making will change what one concludes about what the actors involved must have believed and wantedWhen I went back to college after leaving my first career my fascination with this book was one of the principle reasons I choose International Relations as my subject matter In retrospect I should have tracked down a program in Decision Theory instead but hindsight is 20 20

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Essence of Decision: Explaining the Cuban Missile Crisis[Download] ➽ Essence of Decision: Explaining the Cuban Missile Crisis By Graham T. Allison – One of the most influental political science works written in the post World War II era the original edition of Essence of Decision is a uniue and fascinating examination of the pivotal event of the c One of Decision: Explaining PDF/EPUB ã the most influental political science works written in the post World War II era the original edition of Essence of Decision is a uniue and fascinating examination of the pivotal Essence of MOBI :å event of the cold Cold War Not simply revised but completely re written the Second Edition of this classic text is a fresh reinterpretation of the theories and events surrounding the Cuban Missle of Decision: Explaining Kindle Ø Crisis incorporating all new information from the Kennedy tapes and recently declassified Soviet files Essence of Decision Second Edition is a vivid look at decision making under pressure and is the only single of Decision: Explaining the Cuban MOBI :å volume work that attempts to answer the enduring uestion how should citizens understand the actions of their government.

About the Author: Graham T. Allison

Graham AllisonGraham Decision: Explaining PDF/EPUB ã Tillett Allison Jr born March is an American political scientist and professor at the John F Kennedy School of Government at Harvard He is renowned for his contribution Essence of MOBI :å in the late s and early s to the bureaucratic analysis of decision making especially during times of crisis His book.