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Bureaucratic Politics – What Should We Teach?

Published by USC Bedrosian Center on

by Martin Krieger

I am not sure we teach our students what might be called bureaucratic politics. I have been reading the second edition of Graham Allison (and Philip Zelikow), Essence of Decision (1971, 1999). In Allison’s terms, this would be Model III (bureaucratic politics). I know we do his Model I and given our organization and institutional analysis people, we do Model II.

I had just read Feith’s account of Iraq in the Bush administration, War and Decision, a story that was mostly bureaucratic politics. I would imagine that students who work in government or in other corporate contexts would appreciate the stuff on bureaucratic politics.

I have also been reading Alfred Wohlstetter, the RAND guy on strategic analysis,(Nuclear Heuristics: Selected Writings of Albert and Roberta Wohlstetter) and the Pearl Harbor book by Roberta W. Do we teach any of this sort of systems analysis? Pearl Harbor is about standard operating procedures and organizational outputs and somewhat lesser bureaucratic politics. From what I can see International Relations does not do this. (They might do bureaucratic politics, but I don’t know.)

Henry Rowen’s long discussion of the Wohlstetters in Nuclear Heuristics is terrific in its detail, its context, and its understanding.

Also, I have started a new blog, PricePoints, about what the school is reading.


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