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Bureaucratic Politics and Foreign Policy by Halperin and Clapp

Ch1 – the ABM puzzle

- 3; “in trying to explain foreign policy decisions, most observers assume that decisionmakers are motivated by a single set of national security images and foreign policy goals.”

-- 4; “There is no question that the reality is different. The actions of the American govt related to foreign policy result from the interests and behavior of many different groups and individuals in American society.”



Ch 2 – National security interests

- shared images; power of shared images to guide bureaucratic responses

- 15; “All participants, depending on where they sit, see a somewhat different face of an issue because their perception of the issue is heavily shaded by their particular concerns.”

-- determines the faces of the issue they see and determines the stakes they see involved

- 19; the “51/49 principle”; even if you just barely believe something, you have to advocate like you believe it 100% to be taken seriously

- 21ff; cognitive processes – shortcuts to analysis:

-- use of pat images and arguments by analogy

-- inferences of transformation (wishful thinking)

-- inferences of impossibility (there’s no way that could work…)

-- negative images

- 21; ideological thinking, grooved thinking, uncommitted thinking

-- ideological – abstract, extensive belief pattern, emphasizes single major value

-- grooved – focus on few key variables, programmed responses; reflects organizational interests; “Such individuals tend to ignore signals for which they have no set response…”

-- uncommitted – for officials continually bombarded w/ uncertainty, must deal w/ generalized concepts, push off making final decision while waiting for more data

- 24; “Indeed, much of what goes on in the govt involves efforts to analyze an issue from the point of view of shared images and to persuade others that the requirements of national security, flowing from those shared images, require that a particular stand be taken.”



Ch 3 – Organizational interests

- 25; to do their job, all organizations seek influence

-- 26; the pursuit of influence “is felt to be in the national interest.”

- 27; “The organization’s essence is the view held by the dominant group within the organization of what its mission and capabilities should be.” Profiles the four services, and various govt agencies and their essences

- 30; “When Air Force officers are given their own way, their priorities have always been clear: to protect the role of the Air Force in the strategic delivery of weapons by air.”

- 34; CIA split in 3 groups: intel gathering, clandestine ops, and intel analysis

- 35; organizational agreement on essence of foreign service: “reporting on the activities of foreign govts that have relevance to the US, general rep of American interests abroad, and negotiation of specific issues when directed by the govt.”

- 38; organizations make concerted efforts to enhance their essence

-- favor policies to make them look more important

-- struggles hardest for capabilities it views as necessary to its essence & resists having its key capabilities removed

-- organizations are indifferent to functions not seen as part of their essence

- 40; “In short, an organization accepts new functions only if it believes that to refuse to do so would be to jeopardize its position with senior officials or if it believes that the new function will bring in more funds and given the organization greater scope to pursue its ‘own’ activities.”

- 41; Navy/AF conflict post-ww2: “the intensity of the disputes comes from the fact that each service sees its essence as threatened by the presumed intentions of the other.”

- 49; Implications of roles & missions debates:

-- such disputes affect the info reports to senior officials

-- if another organization is competing for a coveted role, an organization will bend over backward to retain full share of the mission

-- in periods of crisis, career officials calculate how alternative policies and patterns of action will affect future definitions of roles and missions

- 51; “Organizations are often prepared to accept less money w/ greater control rather than more money with less control.”

- 58; “Each military service supports foreign policies that justify maintaining the forces that it believes are necessary to maintain the essence of the service and favors strategies that presume that precisely those forces will be used in the event of hostilities.”

- 61; “Career officials, include those who come to head organizations such as the Joint Chiefs of Staff, often develop their position largely by calculating the national interest in terms of the organizational interests of the career service to which they belong.”



Ch 4- Domestic Politics and Presidential Interests

- 62; “Foreign policy and national security decisions are multiple-value choices and are rarely reached on the basis of a single, overriding view of any single problem that excludes all other considerations.”

- 63; “The reluctance to admit that one is taking domestic political interests into account means that they are seldom discussed explicitly within the government.”

- 67; presidential calculations about the impact of foreign policy on elections seem to relate to three goals:

-- generating a popular image of the president among the electorate

-- denying a potential opponent a major issue

-- appealing to particular interest groups

- 73; “…the presidency is simply a license to seek to persuade.”

- 77; presidential stands and activity to persuade:

-- consensus building;

-- maintaining the appearance of consistency

-- packaging policies for public consumption

-- logrolling

- 82; presidents make trade-offs btw domestic and foreign policy concerns; drives uncommitted thinking;



Ch 5: Interests, Faces, and Stands

- 84; any bureaucratic response has organizational, presidential, and personal interests embedded in it;

-- Neustadt quote: “For every player, any move toward action brings an element of personal challenge wrapped in a substantive guise. Of these his stakes are made. The substance is important, never doubt it, for that is what the game is all about. But so is the personal element… The personal is tightly interwoven with the institutional.”

- 85; career officials motivated by desire for promotion;

- 89; in-and-outers more likely to show ideological thinking;

- 93; some in government influenced by personal hopes for future elected office;



Part II: Decisions



Ch 6 – Initiative and Rules

- 99; “The bureaucratic system is basically inert; it moves only when pushed hard and persistently.”

- 101ff; situations which drive decisions to be made:

-- changes in actions of other nations or outside actors;

--- 102; “Most decisions are responses to domestic pressures, and the actions of other nations often figure merely as devices for argument.”

-- new technology, changes in shared images of society or bureaucracy, routine events (e.g. QDR), changes in personnel, self-generated efforts;

- 108ff: how do rules affect the process?

-- who has the action? Who must sign off? How high up must an issue go? Through what channels does an issue move up to the president? Can informal channels be used? In what form does an issue come to the president?

- 118; “The premise of this book is that the rules do not dominate the process, although, to the extent that they structure the game, they do make a difference.”



Ch 7: planning a decision strategy

- 119; “Frequently, the central problem in planning is to determine how one can get the issue to the president, put him in a position where he believes he has to make a decision, and then get him to decide in one’s favor.”

- 122; “…the most active game in Washington is seeking to determine who has influence with the president on what issues.”

- 122ff: who is involved:

-- opting in or out (whether to spend your political capital)

-- drawing the circle (defining the sphere of influence)

- 135ff: who plans? Depends…

-- 138; “…planning is a variable in bureaucratic behavior. It may or may not be present in any given struggle, and it may or may not be efficacious.”

-- 138; “Indeed, observers who have been involved in government are unanimous in emphasizing the confusion, the great pressure of deadlines, the importance of accident, misunderstandings, and lack of information in determining what occurs.”



Ch 8: information and arguments

- 139; in trying to convince others, participants “choose from the wide range of plausible arguments those that seem likely to convince others.”

- 141; purposes of arguments;

-- to fill in the blanks, to demonstrate that there is a national security interest in play, to signal policy preferences, to signal the degree of concern, to report a consensus

- 149; “…the busy senior executive frequently finds more useful and meaningful to him the product of the individual mind than the product of a tortured collective effort; and it is only the latter that he gets from his assistants.”

- 150; “Organizations constantly hedge against unforeseen consequences and the possibility that their private estimates are wrong.”

- 154; arbitrary selection of 1.0 megaton yield as nuclear requirement; simply because it was large base 10 number;

- 158ff: power of shared images to drive the debate:

-- people shape arguments in terms of shared images even if they don’t agree with them;

-- due to universality of shared images, president unlikely to receive fresh or provocative arguments;

-- people suppress arguments that differ w/ shared images for fear of losing influence/standing;

-- devil’s advocate rarely achieves its purpose – seen as token;



Ch 9 – Maneuvers to affect information

- 164ff: Tactics for selecting information

-- report only those facts that support the stand you are taking;

-- structure reports so seniors see only what you want them to see;

-- don’t report facts that show danger

-- give authoritative reports with new info that supports your position

-- request a study from those who will give you the desired conclusions;

-- keep contrarians away from seniors

-- expose participants informally to those who hold the correct views;

-- get other governments to report facts believed to be valuable;

-- circumvent formal channels

-- distort the facts if necessary (and if you can get away it)

- 176ff: Presidential efforts to expand information base (countering above tactics):

-- instruct WH staff to seek alternative sources of info

-- create new channels of reliable info

-- surround himself w/ divergent views

-- ask for the separate views of each adviser

-- encourage adversary proceedings

-- call middle-level officials and permit them to call;

-- contact ambassadors directly

-- send reps to the field

-- go outside the government



Ch 10: Uses of the Press

- 181; leaks as standard bureaucratic behavior

- 183; most WH leaks occur at the president’s initiative



Ch 11: Involving the President

- 204; “When there is a choice, participants prefer to reach a consensus and a decision without involving the president.”

- 206; getting to the pres: through official channels, going solo, through WH staff, other ways…

- 222; presidents are always putting out fires and responding to deadlines; therefore, must find way to attach your decision-of-interest to a pressing deadline (in order to get presidential attention)



Ch 12: Influence and Decisions

- 226; personal characteristics that grant influence w/ decisions: ability to gain confidence of the pres, willing to assume responsibility, exercise finesse in threatening to leak info or resign, skilled staff in doing bureaucracy, aptitude for mobilizing support outside the bureaucracy;

- 230; “Power gravitates to those who are willing to make decisions and live with the results.”

- 239; “In reality…there is much confusion, much that occurs by accident and without the intent of any particular participant. There is much also that remains inscrutable.”

-- same JFK quote about the “dark and tangled stretches” (used in Essence of Decision)


Snake's review doc:


Halperin & Clapp

Bureaucratic Politics and Foreign Policy (2006)''

- Organizations (Bureaucracies) create shared images of a situation; these images are created by a complex mixture of policy, beliefs, organizational views and fundamental values.

- These images can shift by either a sudden change in the situation (policy re-thinks) or by a change in personnel (value and belief changes).

- The view that each organization within the Bureaucracy is shaped by their involvement in the situation. The State department would view something very differently to the Treasury Department.

- shared images set the context , shared images in government usually reflect those of the governed

- if a decision is 51-49, even the least convinced of the 51 feels compelled to advocate passionately

- cognitive shortcuts are standard

- ‘grooved thinking’ means focus on a few key variables and respond programmatically to them

- orgs tend toward self-importance, survival, rice-bowl, blinkered, reluctant to grow internal offshoots

- career senior leaders “often develop their position largely by calculating the national interest in terms of the organizational interests” of their agency

- political senior leaders (whether politicians or political appointees) often determine national interest by what the president wants

- vigorous presidential action usually strengthens his popularity

- most exec branch members don’t run for office, but serve at the pleasure of the president- a different dynamic than in the legislative branch

- five purposes for policy arguments: to fill in the blanks, to establish the tie to national security, to signal policy preference, to signal degree of concern, and to report consensus

- most politicians or political appointees will defer to career experts speaking in their areas of specialization

- participants in arguments who share images rarely disagree, limiting the principal’s exposure to “fresh and provocative arguments”

- principals try to unspin facts when trying to make a decision, important sources of information are press briefings and leaks, leaks aren’t necessarily bad, but sometimes are unseemly motivated, leaks are sometimes trial balloons , a widely held belief at the top of US govt is that anything important will be leaked by someone upset by it – that shapes many policy options

- the most influential officials: gain the president’s confidence, assume responsibility, finesse with threats of leaks or resignation, have a skilled bureaucratic staff, and can mobilize support outside the bureaucracy

- It is essential that all of Allison’s models are utilized in order to understand how this interacts, but obviously MOD II and III is mostly in use for a bureaucratic system.

- There is a lot of manipulation, bargaining to get you will.

- Important to be liked and be promotable, therefore this can be a driving factor

- Bureaucracy has as one function to stabilize and make it more certain, by removing quick changes and rapid reflexes…

- Media (leaking secrets/info) and access to information/staff and leaders is a mean to achieve what you want.

- Media affects greatly what the public holds of views….

- Media acts also as a controlling agent, exposing “monkey business”…

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