The Essence of Decision: Explaining the Cuban Missile Crisis is a book by Graham T. Allison and Phillip David Zelikow
The Essence of Decision: Explaining the Cuban Missile Crisis is a book by Graham T. Allison and Phillip David Zelikow. This book provides three different models to answer the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 that created a critical situation between powers of America and USSR. There three models, the Rational Actor Model, the Organizational behavior Model, and the Government Politics model. These models provide possible reasons to the tension that was created in 1962 and provides different answers to why this situation occurred. In the previous assignment we focused on the Rational Actor Model and its relation to politics of both countries. This report will focus on the organizational behavior model and will provide evidence on how it can be a possible answer to the crisis.
The third chapter focuses on the second model i.e. “The Organizational Behavior Model. This model is the second most suitable model presented to answer the reasons behind the Cuban Missile crisis. This model describes that decision makers of an organization are bound to take actions which involve minimum risk and achieves the main goal. This approach does not result in selection of the best choices every time but it is in the best interest of the organization to achieve a little rather than to take huge risk and suffer the consequences. The organizational model focuses on following four factors:
- The type of organization and its people.
- The amount of information available.
- The definition of task, essential stages and risk involved.
- Ability of the individuals to complete that task.
This model is used to predict the decision of organizations in time when there are very little options available and achieving goal is important. Allison and Zelikow by presenting this model describe that countries that were involved in Cuban Missile Crisis had very little information about the intention and planning of the other country. They took their decisions based on their best understanding while keeping the risk to their own stability to the minimum. The authors’ state that this model provide a possible answer to the crisis by giving us a way to think about why US government took those decisions.
The fourth chapter describes how this model can be applied to answer the crisis. As evidence to this claim the authors suggest that nearly all the decisions in the crisis were made by sensitive organizations like the CIA or the Armed Forces and the decisions they made were thought to be in the best interest of United States. President Kennedy while deploying missiles in Turkey had little knowledge of the situation that may arise due to the crisis. When Soviet Union explicitly deployed missiles bases in Cuba it left President Kennedy with little choices and he decided to deploy his nuclear program in Turkey. The decisions Kennedy took of naval blockade, and test flights over Cuban airspace are explained to be not the best option of the time but the most reasonable according to the current situation.
The Organizational Behavior Model (OBM) explains the decisions made by organizations based on limitations, risks, and best option available. Decisions made by organizations have proven to be the best in terms of international relations. Organizations select the option that can achieve the best results and are in their best favor. Because of these reasons it is only logical that organizations while making decisions related to international affairs choose the most diplomatic solution and have negotiations with the opposite party.
The OBM rejects the power of decision towards only one individual of the country i.e. the president and provides influence of organizations like CIA, Army or bureaucracy to hold power and influence over sensitive political decisions. This model explains the Cuban Missile Crisis as a combined effect of decisions made by American and Soviet Union’s organizations. What is meant by “organization” is explained by Whyte and Levi to be a joint committee which was controlled by President Kennedy and advised by ministers who were experts in war tactics (Whyte, G., & Levi, A. S). Allison describes the Cuban missile crisis to be an act bureaucracy in which rational approach and consequences are considered and government takes action by analyzing the choices, and the choices made reflect the process that organizations followed in coming to that decision. According to Allison the organizations are a combination of sub organizations whose combined analysis is presented as a solution to the problem (Allison, pp. 699). With the help of this claim and intelligence organization’s part in decision for Cuban missile deployment we can say that President Khrushchev took advice from the Russian intelligence and the deployment of missiles were not just a decision made by president himself. Similarly President Kennedy’s decision is seemed to have influenced by experienced bureaucrats and policy makers who advised Kennedy to play safe and encouraged him to deploy missiles in Turkey and Blockade of Cuban port.
Another argument for organizational behavior in case of Cuban Missile crises is the fact that Soviet government explicitly deployed missiles in Cuba. Based on the rational approach any individual while planning a takeover to a country will ensure secrecy, which in case of Soviet government was not opted. Allyn claims this lack of camouflage of missile deployment as a deliberate act of soviet high command and it was a strategic approach made by Soviet governance to let American government know about this deployment (Allyn, pp. 153). This fact further solidifies the claim for organizational decision from both sides.
The example of Blockade in Cuba and air surveillance ordered by President Kennedy as well as the lack of camouflage by Soviet missile deployment indicates that both parties were in huge influence of their “think tanks”. Despite the fact that there is too little information of intention of both sides. The deliberate actions of Ex-Com can be claimed to be result of organizations, and that they opted what they thought to be best option based on their experience and knowledge of the issue. The application of organizational model with the rational model provides us insight on how organizational decisions can influence international relations and change course of history.
Allyn, Bruce J., James G. Blight, and David A. Welch. “Essence of revision: Moscow, Havana, and the Cuban missile crisis.” International Security 14.3 (1989): 136-172.
Brenner, Philip. “Cuba and the missile crisis.” Journal of Latin American Studies 22.1-2 (1990): 115-142.
Blight, James G., Bruce J. Allyn, and David A. Welch. Cuba on the Brink: Castro, the Missile Crisis, and the Soviet Collapse. Rowman & Littlefield, 2002.
Graham, Allison, and Zelikow Philip. “Essence of decision: explaining the Cuban missile crisis.” Boston: Little, Brown, and Company (1971).
Whyte, Glen, and Ariel S. Levi. “The origins and function of the reference point in risky group decision making the case of the Cuban missile crisis.” Journal of behavioral decision making 7.4 (1994): 243-260.