Monday, December 16, 2013

"Thinking in Time" "Essence of Decision"

I am rereading Thinking in Time by Neustadt and May. They speak of the experienced professionals who are their students: it is about how prudently to use (historical) analogy, and it provides a mini-method for thinking in this mode. Students who are as well experienced professionals bring lots of experience to the table, and so lots of examples, and what they need to learn is how to use that experience and those examples in a critical fashion, with a sense of what scholarship can contribute to their work. The examples  are about leadership, government, institutions, etc. Neustadt is a political scientist famous for his work on the presidency, May is an historian who has written lots on intelligence and the like (and he was a consultant to the 9/11 Commission and other attempts to revise the intelligence community, and Zelikow was his coworker on the Kennedy tapes). 

Allison and Zelikow's second edition of Essence of Decision, is a study of the Cuban Missile Crisis. The first edition was drawn from Allison's doctoral dissertation, I believe.They famously talk of Model I, II, and III: rational, organizational, and bureaucratic political modes. If you are going to talk about lenses and paradigms and decisionmaking, this is the place to start. Zelikow was on the 9/11 commission staff, its head I believe. 

All of this is well known in some circles. So if you know this work, all I can suggest is that you go back to some of it. I have been rereading both books, in the context of my defense policy course, and was struck again by their value. They are a bit formulaic, providing mini-methods, but surely they would help students (and professors, and political and policy actors) organize their thinking.

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