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Decision-making and the Munich crisis


It is now twenty years since Richard Snyder and two associates published a monograph presenting their “framework” for studying international relations as foreign policy decision-making. The basic assumptions of this approach have become an indispensable part of the study of international relations. No-one would now think of ignoring the important processes by which groups of leaders formulate and choose among policy alternatives. Yet the approach itself has been relegated to subsections of surveys of the field, or dismissive footnotes. Although James Rosenau's influential anthology, International Relations and Foreign Policy, still retains three “decision-making” selections in its most recent edition, Rosenau himself pronounced a respectful epitaph for this approach some years ago. Glenn Paige's initial, massive study of the United States' intervention in Korea has had no successors.

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page 278 note 1 Snyder Richard C., Bruck H. W. and Sapin Burton, Decision-making as an Approach to Study of International Politics (Princeton: Foreign Policy Analysis Project, Organizational Behavior Section, June, 1954), later reprinted in the same authors' Foreign Policy Decision Making: An Approach to the Study of International Politics (New York, 1962).

page 278 note 2 For instance, Haas Michael (ed.), International Systems: A Behavioral Approach (New York, 1974), pp. 361363 and Allison Graham, Essence of Decision: Explaining the Cuban Missile Crisis (Boston, 1971), p. 298, fn. 1. These are not random examples, but books well up at the forefront of empirical theory. In general, the more recent theoretical work on decision-making has tended to shift away from organizational and informational variables to concentrate on psychological aspects of stress and individual choice, generalizing attention to non-authoritative choices. Gf. for instance Steinbruner's John D.The Cybernetic Theory of Decision: New Dimensions of Political Analysis (Princeton, 1974). Similarly, Ole Holsti, Alexander George and Irving Janis seem to have become increasingly less interested in foreign policy decision-making as a social process (e.g. Holsti Ole R. and George Alexander L., ‘The Effects of Stress on the Performance of Foreign Policy-Makers’, in Cotter Cornelius P. (ed.), Political Science Annual: An International Review (Indianapolis, 1976), and Irving L. Janis and Leon Mann, Decision Making: A Psychological Analysis of Conflict, Choice, and Commitment (New York, A recent review essay dismisses Snyder, Paige, and Allison together for failing “to provide the scientific basis for even the most circumspect and contigent of prescriptions”. (Steiner Miriam, ‘The Elusive Essence of Decision’, International Studies Quarterly, xxi (1977), p. 421.

page 278 note 3 Rosenau James N., ‘The Premises and Promises of Decision-Making Analysis’, in Charlesworth James C. (ed.), Contemporary Political Analysis (New York, 1967), pp. 189211.

page 278 note 4 Paige Glenn D., 'Korean Decision (New York, 1968).

page 279 note 1 Snyder, Bruck, and Sapin, op. cit., p. 63.

page 279 note 2 For Paige, see The Korean Decision and ‘Comparative Case Analysis of Crisis Decisions: Korea and Cuba’, in Charles F. Hermann (ed.), International Crises: Insights from Behavioral Research (New York, 1972); for Hermann, in the same anthology see his article ‘Threat, Time, and Surprise: A Simulation of International Crisis’, plus his earlier volume Crises in Foreign Policy: A Simulation Analysis (Indianapolis, 1969); for the Stanford studies, of a long list of articles see particularly the earliest and most influential, Zinnes D., North R., and Koch H. Jr., ‘Capability. Threat, and the Outbreak of War’, in Rosenau James N. (ed.), International Politics and Foreign Policy (New York, 1961) and Ole Hosti, R. North, and R. Brody, ‘Perception and Action in the 1914 Crisis’, and D. Zinnes, ‘Expression and Perception of Hostility in Prewar Crisis: 1914’, both in J. David Singer (ed.), Quantitative International Politics (New York, 1968); for Ole Holsti, see particularly Crisis Escalation War (Montreal, 1972), which compares the 1914 and Cuban Missile Crises.

page 279 note 3 The work of Michael Brecher and his associates is also related, though he uses a different and very elaborate theoretical formulation of his own. He is also explicitly committed to the belief in the objective reality of decision-making crises (see his two volume study of Israeli foreign policy, The Foreign Policy System of Israel (Oxford, 1972), and Decisions in Israel's Foreign Policy (New Haven, 1975).

page 279 note 4 See Naomi (Black) Rosenbaum, ‘Success in Foreign Policy: Th e British in Cyprus, 1878–1960’, Canadian Journal of Political Science, iii (1970); Naomi Black, ‘Victoire par substitution: le disengagement francais d'Indochine en 1954’ Etudes Internationales, iv (1973), presents a partial decision-making analysis focusing on motivation.

page 280 note 1 About sources: The bibliographies on Munich are enormous, even if attention is confined as here to the British aspects. SirJohn Wheeler-Bennett's Munich, Prologue to Tragedy, is still an excellent source (most recently reprinted London, 1948), as is Laffan's R. G. D.The Crisis over Czechoslovakia (London, 1951) which is the Royal Institute of International Affairs' Survey of International Affairs for the year 1938, delayed to include documents available by the Allied victory in Europe. Three useful recent books have been able to use the archives opened by the British Government in 1967: Colvin Ian, The Chamberlain Cabinet (London, 1971),Middlemas Keith, Diplomacy of Illusion (London, 1972), and Mosley Leonard, On Borrowed Time (London, 1969). These authors had differing access to unpublished private papers and the reminiscences of survivors, in ways closely related to their own views about Appeasement; their work shows the continuing usefulness of the volumes cited above, and of the British Government's own collection of documents issued in 1949: E. L. Woodward and Rohan Butler (ed.), Documents on British Foreign Policy 1919–39, Third Series, vol. III, 1938 (London, 1949).

page 280 note 2 Carr E. H., The Twenty Years' Crisis 1919–39 (New York, 1945), p. 216, (first published 1939).

page 281 note 1 Cf. Paige's discussion in his Korean Decision, pp. 9–12 and Rosenau James N., ‘Moral Fervor, Systematic Analysis, and Scientific Consciousness in Foreign Policy Research’, in Ranney Austin (ed.), Political Science and Public Policy (Chicago, 1968), p. 199.

page 281 note 2 Paige, op. cit. pp. 275–6.

page 282 note 1 The central importance of the notion of “stress” is repeatedly noted in the work on crisis; for a very early statement of this, see James A. Robinson, ‘The Concept of Crisis in Decision-Making’, Symposia Series Studies, National Institute of Social and Behavioral Sciences, No. II (Washington, 1962).

page 282 note 2 In the nuclear period, neither France nor Britain have comparable independent status, and Russian materials are unavailable for the same reasons as the Russian political system is not comparable. On the other hand, in spite of obvious differences in weaponry and political systems, the general situations and regimes of the Great Powers in 1914 do seem to make a comparison legitimate. The leaders' fears of the irreversibility of mobilization, and of escalation into world war, do not seem qualitatively different from current images of nuclear escalation, and modernization had already eroded the formal autocracies still existing. All the major participants of the 1914 war had bureaucracies, Prime Ministers, and parliaments of a sort, even if often disregarded; all were well into modernization. For a summary statement of their levels of development, see Black C. E., The Dynamics of Modernization (New York, 1966), especially pp. 91–3; he argues that all the nations in question had consolidated “modernizing leadership” by this time, and most had completed “economic and social transformation”. And if they were not technically open, they were in practice not closed societies.

page 283 note 1 Feiling Keith, The Life of Neville Chamberlain (London, 1970) p. 372. Even in 1938, such comments would seem more appropriate for Korea than for a European democracy within easy air and phone contact; they represent the attitude that in both 1938 and 1950 made an enemy assume that a “faraway country” would be excluded from the homeland's defensive perimeter. Among the consequences of Munich's surrender of Czechoslovakia and its fortifications were, of course, the American defence of Kore a and later of Vietnam.

page 283 note 2 See Waltz Kenneth N., Foreign Policy and Democratic Politics (New York, 1967).

page 283 note 3 On these attitudes (and how the leaders first helped develop and then depended on them) see two articles by Milton Rosenberg: ‘Images in Relation to the Policy Process: American Public Opinion on Gold-War Issues’, in Kelman H. J. (ed.), International Behavior (New York, 1965) and ‘Attitude Change and Foreign Policy in the Cold-War Era, ’ in J. N. Rosenau (ed.), Domestic Sources ofForeign Policy (New York, 1967).

page 283 note 4 Thompson Neville, The Anti-Appeasers (Oxford, 1971), shows how fragmented the Conservative Party dissent was; Middlemas's Diplomacy of Appeasement demonstrates how little and how ineffective the opposition from Ministers and permanent civil servants was. Richie Ovendale reminds us again ho w solidly the Commonwealth was lined up in support of Appeasement in “Appeasement” and the English Speaking World: Britain, the United States, the Dominions, and the Policy of “Appeasement”, 1937—39 (Cardiff 1975).

page 283 note 5 For the United States, the key example is of course the Vietnam War, documented among other places in reporter David Halberstam's The Best and the Brightest (New York, 1969). For Britain, Mosley in his, op. cit., is explicit and indignant about governmental influence on the Times and the BBC.

page 284 note 1 This is a major theme of the important collection edited by Craig Gordon A. and Gilbert Felix, The Diplomats 1919–1939 (Princeton, 1953).

page 284 note 2 Ian Golvin, op. cit. pp. 20–22.

page 284 note 3 Golvin Ian, Vansittart in Office (London, 1965).

page 284 note 4 See Roskill Stephen, Hankey, Man of Secrets, Volumes I, II, and III (London, 1969-1973).

page 284 note 5 Strang Lord, At Home and Abroad (London, 1956), p. 298.

page 285 note 1 Taylor A. J. P., English History 1914–1945 (Oxford, 1965), p. 411, and Note a, pp. 437–8. Chamberlain used to speak of killing “hundreds of millions”. (For example, Feiling, op. cit. P- 357.).

page 285 note 2 G. M. Young, Baldwin's first, unsympathetic official biographer, makes very clear the helplessness that was voiced by Baldwin, and the unsatisfactoriness of both the counter-force or counter-city alternatives suggested for defensive strategy.Stanley Baldwin (London, 1952).

page 285 note 3 See Middlemas and Barnes, op. cit. pp. 745–7 on what they call Baldwin's “conversion” from disarmament to deterrence. Also cf. R. J. Barry Jones, ‘The Study of “Appeasement” and the Study of International Relations’, British Journal of International Studies (1975), 73–4.

page 285 note 4 A. J. P. Taylor, op. cit. p. 410. This is not to say that German war preparations were fact insignificant or at as low a level as Britain's (which is what Taylor implies), but merely that the British panicked at a particular salient inaccurate belief, which gained a political and psychological importance similar to that of the missile gap, and for similar reasons.

page 285 note 5 See Feiling, op. cit., on Chamberlain's views on all this, esp. pp. 320–1.

page 286 note 1 For a thorough account of the relationship between Roosevelt and Chamberlain with strong implications about the superpower status of Britain, see Watt Donald, ‘Roosevelt and Neville Chamberlain: two appeasers’, International Journal, xxviii (1973).

page 286 note 2 Middlemas, op cit. pp. 336–7.

page 286 note 3 See Horace Wilson's comments years later to Leonard Mosleyop, cit., p. 35.

page 286 note 4 As discussed, for instance, in Charles Hermann's International Crises, especially Chapter One, ‘Some Issues in the Study of International Crisis’.

page 286 note 5 As in Charles A. McClelland's work. See particularly his ‘The Acute International Crisis’, in Knorr Klaus and Verba Sidney (ed.), The International System (Princeton, 1961).

page 287 note 1 Middlemas, op. cit. p. 421, gives the optimistic version of a scenario for the war that would have been fought in 1938 if the Munich Agreements had not been signed; the Germans would have been held back, and it would not have been necessary to bring either Russia or the United States into the war. Other analysts, of course, including the French, thought that Hitler would not have fought at all if certain of British and therefore French resistance. This is probably true; a subsequent plot overthrowing Hitler is more problematic. But for all these versions the Munich decisions are the turning point.

page 287 note 2 Charles McClelland suggests that crisis analysis might produce “performance indications” for measuring the level of disturbance in the international political system as a crucial but preliminary step toward moderating conflict; ‘Access to Berlin: the Quantity and Variety of Events 1948–1963’, in Singer J. David (ed.), Quantitative International Politics (New York, 1968), pp. 1623.

page 287 note 3 Henderson Nevile, Failure ofa Mission (New York, 1940), p. ix.

page 287 note 4 Robinson, op. cit. Systemic crises are the sort that are likely, but not certain, to produce this kind of stress in those who have to deal with them. There may be “crises” in systemic terms that particular groups of decision-makers do not even notice (though, by definition, they act unusually). Alternatively, a particular group of decision-makers may operate within a self-created situation of stress, believing in and responding to an emergency that another group would not be aware of. See Charles A. McClelland, ‘Access to Berlin: The Quantity and Variety of Events, 1948–1963’, esp. 183–4 on a “crisis” no-one really noticed. But of course if crisis is defined for an entire system, its indicators are aggregates a single actor is unlikely to notice very soon, if at all.

page 288 note 1 Dilks David (ed.), The Diaries of Sir Alexander Cadogan, 1938–1943 (London, 1971), p. 19. Dilks also notes that the Diaries were used to voice annoyances that had to be diplomatically repressed, and therefore seem untypically exasperated in tone; the Munich sections nevertheless stand out with a quite special intensity as these brief examples show.

page 288 note 2 Ibid. pp. 96, 97, 98, 102.

page 288 note 3 Cooper Alfred Duff, Old Men Forget (London, 1953), p. 231.

page 288 note 4 Charles Hermann's basic definition, used also by Glenn Paige and others, cited in this case from Hermann's International Crises, p. 13.

page 289 note 1 Hermann, Crises in Foreign Policy, especially pp. 195—203.

page 289 note 2 Hermann, International Crisis, pp. 13—16 and Paige, in the same volume, throughout ‘Comparative Case Analysis of Crisis Decision: Korea and Cuba’, Hermann and Michael Brecher have both stated that they no longer believe that the element of “surprise” is an essential part of the stress-creating situation of crisis, (beginning with presentations at the Annual Meeting of the International Studies Association, St. Louis, March 1977). They are obviously correct in the implication that absolute novelty is rare. I continue to be convinced that the absence of prepared plans, along with the awareness of a failure of prediction, are essential elements of decisional crisis.

page 289 note 3 A. J. P. Taylor, op. cit. pp. 426–7.

page 289 note 4 Documents on British Foreign Policy and in them note particularly in Volume II, I, ‘Additional Letters from Sir N. Henderson August-September, 1938’, for example of the recurrent theme of time-limits. Henderson was British Ambassador to Berlin, and a major source ofinformation for the British decision-makers.

page 289 note 5 Laflfan, op. cit. citing Hitler's interpreter, “The German counter-proposals had come as a profound shock to Chamberlain”, write s Laffan, p. 379.

page 290 note 1 Sayder, Brack and Sapin, op. cit., pp. 9, 75–80. Paige, op. cit., pp. 276–80

page 291 note 1 Snyder, Bruck and Sapin, op. cit. p. 100.

page 291 note 2 Ibid. p. 65

page 291 note 3 Ibid. pp. 80–1.

page 291 note 4 Hermann Charles F., “International Crisis as a Situational Variable”, in Rosenau J. N. (ed.), International Politics andForeign Policy, (New York, 1969). In this article he between observers' and participants' perceptions of the characteristics of crisis, but is inclined to think they will produce similar results. However his then unpublished article to which he referred (p. 414, fn. 20) found the opposite: “Whether crisis traits were defined by the participants or by the experimenter made a considerable difference in the simulation…the two sets of situations defined by either actors or observers have different effects on the procedures for choice-making”. (‘Threat, Time and Surprise: A Simulation of International Crisis’, in his International Crisis, p. 209.)

page 291 note 5 Lentner, cited by Hermann, International Crisis, p. 7.

page 292 note 1 For an excellent appraisal of the nature of the charges against Roosevelt, see Ferrell Robert H., ‘Pearl Harbor and the Revisionists’, reprinted in Robertson E. M. (ed.), The Origins of the Second World War (London, 1971).

page 292 note 2 In the Stanford studies' mediated stimulus-response model, represented as S-r: s-R, the crisis is not “S” but “r”. It exists in Harold and Margaret Sprout's “psychological milieu” rather than the “operational milieu”. The relationship of these formulations is pointed out by Zinnes Dina, in ‘Some Evidence Relevant to the Man-Milieu Hypothesis’, in Rosenau J. N., Davis Vincent, and East Maurice A. (ed.), The Analysis of International Politics (New York, 1972). The Stanford studies nevertheless treat “crisis” as “S”, an objectively determinable stimulus in the environment, and treat variations in “r” as misperceptions.

page 292 note 3 Paige, op. cit. pp. 281—90. But since Paige is writing of what he accepts as a “correct” decision, action itself tends to be treated a desirable goal, and the structure that in fact exists tends to be treated as the optimum, since it produced an optimum decision. Glenn Paige has since changed his views on this, as is indicated in his ‘On Values and Science: The Korean Decision Revisited’. American Political Science Review, lxxi, (1979).

page 292 note 4 Ole Holsti, Crisis, Escalation, War. This is however implied in his ‘Conclusion’, pp. 199–237.

page 293 note 1 Neustadt Richard, Presidential Power (New York, 1960) Neustadt laments that the frequency and commonness of crisis prevents the occurrence of a drastic, innovation-producing one like the Depression.

page 293 note 2 Middlemas and Barnes, op, cit. p. 1056. He was referring specifically to the Munich crisis: “I should have done it differently”.

page 293 note 3 Mueller John E., ‘Trends in Popular Support for the Wars in Korea and Vietnam’, American Political Science Review, lxv, (1971).

page 293 note 4 Naomi (Black) Rosenbaum, “Success in Foreign Policy”.

page 293 note 5 Templewood Lord (Hoare Sir Samuel), Nine Troubled Tears (London, 1954) p. 279.

page 293 note 6 Thomas W. Milburn, ‘The Management of Crisis’, in Hermann, International Crises, Holsti and George, op, cit. Janis and Mann also note the well-known facilitating personal effects of moderate stress.

page 294 note 1 Compare Ole Holsti's ‘Conclusions’, in Crisis, Escalation, War.

page 294 note 2 Jan Masaryk added, “If not, God help your souls”. Quoted by Leonard Mosley, op, cit. p. 64.

page 295 note 1 Flanner Janet (“Genet”), Paris Was Yesterday, 1925–39 (Toronto, 1972) p. 193 citing despatch dated October 12, 1938.

page 295 note 2 From a letter dated October 1, 1938, quoted in Kingsley Martin, ‘Arguing with Keynes-a Memoir’, Encounter (February, 1965) p. 80.

page 295 note 3 Taylor, op. cit. p. 431, and 431, fn. 1.

page 296 note 1 “Gato” was Michael Foot and others, using information supplied by Peter Howard of the Sunday Express (Middlemas and Barnes, op. cit. p. 1056); Guilty Men was published London in 1940.

page 296 note 2 Duff Cooper, op. cit. p. 235.

page 296 note 3 Documents on British Foreign Policy 1938, v. II, outlines this; compare particularly ment 938 on p. 406 and document 1000 on p. 443.

page 297 note 1 Documents on British Foreign Policy 1938, vol. II, document number 928, 'Record of Anglo-Franch Conversations Held at No. 10 Downing Street on September 18, 1938), esp. pp. 380–2.

page 297 note 2 For instance, in Documents on British Foreign Policy 1938, vol. II, see document 787, 252–3, which also suggests some awareness of the influence ofHitler over Henlein.

page 297 note 3 Ibid. vol. I, document 488, p. 563, document 497, p. 575, 521, p. 600, and document 537, p. 620.

page 297 note 4 Ibid. vol. I, Appendix IV, pp. 647–652.

page 297 note 5 Among the substantial, reliable eye-witness accounts are the following: Vincent Massey, Canadian High Commissioner in London, in What's Past is Prologue (Toronto, 1963), pp. 261–7 (including an account by his wife, pp. 265–6) Nicolson Harold, Nigel Nicolson M.P. (ed.), Diaries and Letters 1930–39 (London, 1966), p. 370; Sir Henry “Chips” Channon, Parliamentary Private Secretary in the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, in James Robert Rhodes, (ed.) The Diaries of Sir Henry Channon (London, 1967, 1970), pp. 212–3, Penguin The key documents are reproduced in Documents on British Foregin Policy 1938, v. II: 1166, p. 590, document 1174, p. 593, and document 1179, p. 596. See also Cadogan's Diaries, p. 109 for confirmation, though with minute differences in the timing specified. The letter suggesting the conference is given as document 1158, p. 587.

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