Essence of Decision - Methodological Review

In: Historical Events

Submitted By spookyjosh
Words 1822
Pages 8
In writing Essence of Decision, Graham Allison and Philip Zelikow attempt to produce not only a comprehensive academic assessment of the Cuban missile crisis, and explain the rationale that defined the shape and outcome of that event, but to challenge the conventional method of studying international relations through a single conceptual “lens,” the Rational Actor Model (RAM). The major assumptions that underlie the RAM, that states consider all available options and choose rationally in order to maximize the utility of each choice, is presented as flawed. Many facts and behavioral nuances must be ignored for the sake of fitting such an analysis within the RAM framework. Allison and Zelikow argue that it is necessary to analyze events through different conceptual lenses focused on a trio of decision-making bodies: the RAM, the Organizational Behavior Model, and the Governmental Politics model. Through each of these lenses, the authors analyze what they propose to be the three primary questions requiring resolution for a broad understanding of the crisis: “Why did the Soviet Union decide to place offensive missiles in Cuba?” “Why did the United States respond to the missile deployment with a blockade?” “Why did the Soviet Union withdraw the missiles?” (Allison and Zelikow, 1999, p. 77-78). Under the RAM, dubbed Model 1 by Allison and Zelikow, governments are recognized as the primary actors in decision making and are rational in that they consider a set of objectives, evaluate their utility, choose the objective with the highest payoff, and act in a manner that will best achieve that objective. Model 1 predicates that the purpose and intention of a government’s actions can be gleaned from reflecting on how and why a rational person would act in the same way. Addressing the three illustrative questions, the model begins its explanation of the crisis by framing the…...

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