Decision Making - Decision making and cuba

It is interesting to note that several of the most important works in foreign policy analysis use the same case study involving U.S. foreign policy toward Cuba during the Kennedy administration. Specifically, the Bay of Pigs invasion of 1961 and the Cuban missile crisis of 1962 have received more attention by foreign policy analysts than any other cases. The two crises provide a neat set of intellectual bookends: How could the same president, surrounded by approximately the same advisers, mess up so royally in April 1961 and yet acquit himself so heroically and save the world from nuclear holocaust sixteen months later? Two of the most important works in the foreign policy analysis tradition, Graham Allison's Essence of Decision and Irving Janis's Groupthink, use these cases to demonstrate the crucial role of decision making in international affairs.

Although one might think that such scholarly attention would eventually wane as the crises recede historically, events have sparked renewed interest. For example, the release in 1997 of tapes made by Kennedy during ExCom (Executive Committee) deliberations prompted a whole new wave of theoretical analysis of the Cuban missile crisis. In the spring of 2001, the main participants in the Bay of Pigs, including Fidel Castro, rebel commanders, and Central Intelligence Agency handlers, convened for a first-ever conference in Havana, and information heretofore secret, such as transcripts of Castro's radio communications from the field, were made public at that time.

One of the best ways to view the immense reconceptualization of these cases that all of this new information has brought about is to read Graham Allison's original Essence of Decision (1971) side by side with the latest version of the book by Allison and Philip Zelikow (1999). An important lesson to be gleaned is that our understanding of decision making rests in large part upon our understanding of the empirical historical realities of decision making. When you change the latter, you inevitably change the former.

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