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Groupthink Versus High-Quality Decision Making in International Relations

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Are good and bad outcomes significantly affected by the decision-making process itself? Indeed they are, in that certain decision-making techniques and practices limit the ability of policymakers to achieve their goals and advance the national interest.

The success of policy often turns on the quality of the decision-making process. Mark Schafer and Scott Crichlow identify the factors that contribute to good and bad policymaking, such as the personalities of political leaders, the structure of decision-making groups, and the nature of the exchange between participating individuals. Analyzing thirty-nine foreign-policy cases across nine administrations and incorporating both statistical analyses and case studies, including a detailed examination of the decision to invade Iraq in 2003, the authors pinpoint the factors that are likely to lead to successful or failed decision making, and they suggest ways to improve the process. Schafer and Crichlow show how the staffing of key offices and the structure of central decision-making bodies determine the path of an administration even before topics are introduced. Additionally, they link the psychological characteristics of leaders to the quality of their decision processing. There is no greater work available on understanding and improving the dynamics of contemporary decision making.

Columbia University Press

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What People Are Saying

Ole R. Holsti

This excellent study is a follow-up to one of the classics of foreign-policy decision making. Without question a major contribution to the field.

Ole R. Holsti, Ole R. Holsti, Duke University, author of Crisis, Escalation, War and Content Analysis for the Social Sciences and Humanities

Ole R. Holsti

This excellent study is a follow-up to one of the classics of foreign-policy decision making. Without question a major contribution to the field.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780231148894
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press
  • Publication date: 4/22/2010
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Mark Schafer is professor of political science at Louisiana State University. He has published more than thirty-five articles in such publications as Journal of Politics, Journal of Conflict Resolution, and International Studies Quarterly, and, with Stephen Walker, he is the editor of Beliefs and Leadership in World Politics. Schafer is the past president of the Foreign Policy Analysis section of the International Studies Association and has received the Erik Erikson Award for Early Career Achievement from the International Society of Political Psychology.

Scott Crichlow is associate professor of political science at West Virginia University. His work concerns foreign-policy decision making, international relations, and political psychology, and has been published in International Studies Quarterly, Journal of Conflict Resolution, and Political Psychology.

Columbia University Press

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Table of Contents

List of Tables and Figures ix

Acknowledgments xi

Part I Groupthink and the Quality of the Foreign-Policy Decision-Making Process

1 Introduction 5

2 The Group and the Individual in Foreign-Policy Decision Making 18

3 The Decision-Making Model: The Interplay of Group Processes and Psychological Characteristics 53

Part II Case Studies in American Foreign-Policy Decision Making

4 Case Studies in Low-Quality Decision Making 81

The Garter Administration and the Shah 82

Reagan Funding the Contras, 1981 92

Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative 103

George W. Bush and the 2002 Steel Tariffs 113

5 Case Studies in High-Quality Decision Making 123

The Carter Administration and the Ogaden Crisis 123

The Reagan Administration and Easing Ferdinand Marcos out of Power 132

The Clinton Administration and South Asia: Nuclear Capabilities and Another War Over Kashmir 143

Part III Statistical Analyses

6 The Effect of Groupthink Versus High-Quality Decision Making on Outcomes 157

7 Individual-Level Factors Affecting the Quality of Decision Making 188

Part IV Conclusions

8 The 2003 War in Iraq: How Flawed Decision Making Led to Critical Failures 211

9 Groupthink Versus High-Quality Decision Making: Lessons and Prescriptions 237

Appendix A Cases Included in the Analysis 251

Appendix B Operational Definitions of Situational-Context Variables 255

Appendix C Operational Definitions of Group-Structural Variables 257

Appendix D Operational Definitions of Decision-Processing Variables 259

Notes 261

References 265

Index 279

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