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Bureaucratic Politics: A Paradigm and Some Policy Implications

  • Graham T. Allison (a1) and Morton H. Halperin (a2)

During the Tet holiday of 1968, North Vietnamese troops launched massive attacks on a large number of South Vietnamese cities. Why?

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1 For an elaboration of the argument of this introductory section, see Allison, op. cit.

2 For an elaboration of this point, see Allison, op. cit.

3 In arguing that explanations proceed in terms of implicit conceptual models, this essay makes no claim that foreign policy analysts have developed any satisfactory empirically tested theory. In this essay, the use of the term “model” with qualifiers should be read “conceptual scheme or framework.”

4 For a review of earlier proponents of the bureaucratic politics approach, see Allison, op. cit.

5 In order to highlight the distinctive characteristics of the Bureaucratic Politics Model (BPM), we contrast it with the traditional approach. Our argument is not, however, that the approaches are exclusive alternatives. The relationships between these approaches is discussed in Allison, op. cit.

6 Schlesinger, Arthur Jr., A Thousand Days (Boston 1965); see Sorensen, Theodore C., Kennedy (New York 1965).

7 Merton, Robert K., Social Theory and Social Structures (rev. and enl. ed., New York 1957).

* More specifically, the outcome might be defined in terms of a set of variables: (a) the number of states that have formally renounced nuclear weapons, (b) the number of states that have announced intentions to acquire nuclear weapons, (c) the nuclear technology of various nations, (d) the number of states with a stand-by capability, (e) the number of states that have tested nuclear weapons, (f) the number of states that have nuclear stockpiles and the size of these stockpiles.

8 Martin, John B., Overtaken by Events (New York 1966).

9 In the statement of this paradigm we focus primarily on issues of foreign policy that arise as matters of national security. Extension of the argument to other issue areas, e.g., foreign trade, is straightforward.

10 For an elaboration of the discussion of organizational interests see Halperin, “Why Bureaucrats Play Games,” Foreign Policy (Spring 1971).

11 For an elaboration of the discussion of organizational routines, programs and SOP's, see Allison, op. cit.

12 For this proposition we are indebted to Ernest R. May.

13 This proposition is drawn from Neustadt, Richard E., Presidential Power (New York 1960).

14 See Allison's “Model II,” op. cit. The discussion of organizational constraints draws heavily on that account.

15 On the ABM discussion see Halperin, Morton, “The Decision to Deploy the ABM,” World Politics, XXV (October 1972).

16 See Wohlstetter, Roberta, Pearl Harbor (Stanford 1962).

17 Ibid.

18 Kennedy, Robert, Thirteen Days (New York 1969), 119.

19 For examples from the Cuban missile crisis, see Allison, op. cit.

20 This point has often been made by A. W. Marshall.

21 On Suez and Skybolt see Neustadt, Richard E., Alliance Politics (New York 1970).

22 Eisenhower, Dwight D., Waging Peace (New York 1965), 692.

23 McGarvey, Patrick J., “DIA: Intelligence to Please,” Washington Monthly, 11 (July 1970).

24 On Korea, see Paige, Glenn, The Korean Decision (New York 1968), and de Rivera, Joseph, Psychological Dimensions in Foreign Policy (Columbus 1968).

25 Nixon, Richard, Six Crises (New York 1962), 241.

26 Neustadt, Richard, “Memorandum on the British Labour Party and the MLF,” New Left Review, LI (September 1968).

27 On the 1958 Quemoy crisis, see Halperin, Morton and Tsou, Tang, “United States Policy Toward the Offshore Islands,” Public Policy, XV (Cambridge 1966).

28 Galbraith, John K., Ambassador's Journal (Boston 1969).

29 See Butow, Robert, Japan's Decision to Surrender (Stanford 1954), and Feis, Herbert, Japan Subdued (Princeton 1961).

30 On Pearl Harbor, see Acheson, Dean, Present at the Creation (New York 1969); Butow, Robert, Tojo and the Coming of the War (Princeton 1961); Feis, Herbert, The Road to Pearl Harbor (New York 1962); Grew, Joseph, My Years in Japan (New York 1944); Langer, William L. and Gleason, S. Everett, The Undeclared War (New York 1953); and Wohlstetter (fn. 16). On Skybolt, see Neustadt (fn. 21).

31 New York Times, March 22, 1969, p. 16.

32 See Halperin and Tsou (fn. 27), and Sigal, Leon, “The Rational Policy Model and the Formosa Straits Crisis,” International Studies Quarterly, XIV (June 1970).

33 Andrew Marshall, unpublished paper.

34 See Johnson, Haynes, Bay of Pigs (New York 1964); Schlesinger (fn. 6), and Sorensen (fn. 6).

35 Patrick J. McGarvey (fn. 23), 71–72.

36 Ibid.

37 York, Herbert, Race to Oblivion (New York 1970), 89.

38 See Hilsman, Roger, To Move a Nation (New York 1967), Schlesinger, op. cit. and Sorensen, op. cit.

39 Ernest May, unpublished paper.

* This presentation of a bureaucratic politics approach to foreign policy builds upon previous works of both authors. Specifically, it takes as a point of departure Allison's, “Conceptual Models and the Cuban Missile Crisis,” American Political Science Review, LXIII (September 1970) and Essence of Decision: Explaining the Cuban Missile Crisis (Boston 1971); and Halperin's Bureaucratic Politics and Foreign Policy, forthcoming. Here we focus on the further development of “Model III,” recognizing that organizations can be included as players in the game of bureaucratic politics, treating the factors emphasized by an organizational process approach as constraints, developing the notion of shared attitudes, and introducing a distinction between “decision games” and “action games.”

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World Politics
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