Essence of Decision

Graham Allison and Philip Zelikow

The updated edition of Graham Allison’s 1972 work reconsiders the historical account of the Cuban Missile Crisis with new information from Soviet and American archives and post-Cold War events. Allison and Zelikow maintain the central premise that an awareness of how different analytical lenses shape assumptions, inquiries, and conclusions can improve our understanding of foreign policy crisis decision-making. The authors introduce three analytical models and assess each in corresponding chapters to demonstrate how American and Soviet leaders processed a course of action and how each vantage point can produce “a different image of the same fundamental reality” (p. 380). The Rational Actor Model (RAM or Model I) is the authors’ starting point for analysis, while alternative frameworks Organizational Behavior (Model II) and Governmental Politics (Model III) are intended to show how diverse patterns of inquiry can help individuals identify biases and question assumptions.