the organizational model of foreign policy n.
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The Organizational Model of Foreign Policy
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  1. The Organizational Model of Foreign Policy PO 326: American Foreign Policy

  2. The Rational Model: Powerful but Seemingly Incomplete • Tautology of explanation (given a certain behavior, rationality must have been operative) • The assumption that governments are unitary actors is largely suspect; other domestic actors almost certainly influence decision-making, and unanimity not always present • Impediments to rationality (misperception, strategic interaction, incomplete information) may preclude its use as a powerful analytical tool

  3. The Organizational Model • A second perspective on foreign policy decision-making, the organizational model, contends that governmental outputs are not the result of calculated deliberation by heads of state • Rather, outputs are the result of large organizations within government functioning according to standard patterns of behavior

  4. The Organizational Model • This perspective contends that arising issues trigger the implementation of standard operating procedures (SOPs), developed by established governmental organizations, that are in place beforehand • The ultimate government output is the result of organizational attempts, relying almost solely on such procedures, to tackle the issue • Thus, the ultimate output is not normally reflective of issue-specific consideration by the highest leaders, but of the means and processes by which large organizations address those issues

  5. Why Organization? • Organizations are not temporary or ad hoc; they exist in stable form, dealing with and adapting to certain problems in order to contribute to the outputs of a larger entity (organism analogy) • As performing important functions in larger entities is difficult (if not impossible) amongst uncoordinated individuals, organizations “create” capabilities to do things that would otherwise be impossible (Smith’s pin factory) • Organizations thus provide a “menu” that usefully defines the conceivable options available to decision-makers of the larger entity

  6. Why Organization? • Tradeoffs: • Organizational culture shapes behavior of individuals within organizations (parochialism), coloring approaches to issues and making interaction with other organizations difficult • “Menu of choice” constrains high-level behavior, potentially eliminating fruitful options • Importance of routine means that SOPs are applied to unforeseen or complex problems that arise, and suboptimal outcomes can result (inertia/momentum) • Importance of routines means that change is incremental and slow, and that long-term planning is problematic (myopia) • Routines make responses to issues predictable in strategic settings, which can be problematic in the international realm (Example of Pearl Harbor)

  7. How Governmental Organizations Form and Operate • 1. An organization (or several) is established by leaders to accomplish some important governmental purpose with efficiency (e.g., national defense) • 2. Leaders of the organization(s) develop its mission, or the means by which the organization will attempt to achieve its purpose (e.g., the use of armed forces to ensure defense by DoD) • The choice of mission is somewhat arbitrary (one of many potential approaches) • Mission choice sometimes poor, but largely defines the activity of the organization nonetheless

  8. How Governmental Organizations Form and Operate • 3. The organization(s) is staffed with employees who are charged with the development of SOPs to accomplish the organization’s mission • Organizational legitimacy and status are central to staffs; organizational culture develops, and the defense of the organization’s budget, manpower, and input become synonymous with mission and crucial to procedural development (e.g., DoD seeking to maximize defense budget regardless of international threat) • Imperialism (turf wars) may be prevalent, as several organizations can be tasked with accomplishing the same goal (e.g., DoD and State, which often seeks to settle problems with diplomacy first) • These work to define the SOPs that are ultimately developed

  9. How Governmental Organizations Form and Operate • 4. The Development of SOPs • Mechanically, routines are developed by ordering actions that are to be taken in response to an issue. Organizations tend to develop in a manner that allows for a sequential approach to issues and their components (e.g., OPLANS) • Labor is often divided to address different issues of facets of issues (e.g., several Pentagon departments) • Staff develops SOPs that may not be optimal, but that accomplish mission with greatest coordinated efficiency (“satisficing”). Thus, the personalities and goals of “street level” bureaucrats can matter in SOP development, and may deviate from leaders’ intentions

  10. How Governmental Organizations Form and Operate • 5. The Implementation of SOPs • When standard events or issues arise, they “cue” predetermined, sequential, culturally conditioned responses developed by the organization • When non-standard issues arise, adaptation may be observed, but almost always within the framework of existing SOPs (e.g., F-15s in Northern Iraq)

  11. The Final Result • Presidents do make foreign policy choices, but these choices amount to setting into motion (cueing) the SOPs of organizations, and not making direct decisions • Given organizational culture, actual organizational goals and those of the president may conflict, and organizations nominally tasked with the same purpose can produce very different outputs • Given inertia and SOPs, presidents cannot easily tailor organizational activities to result in complex outputs of their choosing, and may find useful choices unavailable • Thus, foreign policy outputs are somewhat disconnected from direct executive control