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Philip Zelikow

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To Regain Policy Competence: The Software of American Public Problem-Solving

To Regain Policy Competence: The Software of American Public Problem-Solving

American policymaking has declined over the past several decades, but it is something that can be regained. It is not ephemeral or lost to the mists of time. The skills needed to tackle public problem-solving are specific and cultural — and they are…

Book Review Roundtable: What to Make of the Suez Canal Crisis

Book Review Roundtable: What to Make of the Suez Canal Crisis

What lessons does the Suez Canal crisis hold for policymakers today? We assembled a roundtable to review the recently published book "Suez Deconstructed" to tackle that question.

Why Did America Cross the Pacific? Reconstructing the U.S. Decision to Take the Philippines, 1898-99

Why Did America Cross the Pacific? Reconstructing the U.S. Decision to Take the Philippines, 1898-99

A closer examination of what led President William McKinley to take the Philippines reveals a series of deliberate and thoughtful choices that have often been overlooked or ignored.

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                    [post_content] => Policymaking is a discipline, a craft, and a profession. Policymakers apply specialized knowledge — about other countries, politics, diplomacy, conflict, economics, public health, and more — to the practical solution of public problems. Effective policymaking is difficult. The “hardware” of policymaking — the tools and structures of government that frame the possibilities for useful work — are obviously important. Less obvious is that policy performance in practice often rests more on the “software” of public problem-solving: the way people size up problems, design actions, and implement policy. In other words, the quality of the policymaking.

Like policymaking, engineering is a discipline, a craft, and a profession. Engineers learn how to apply specialized knowledge — about chemistry, physics, biology, hydraulics, electricity, and more — to the solution of practical problems. Effective engineering is similarly difficult. People work hard to learn how to practice it with professional skill. But, unlike the methods taught for engineering, the software of policy work is rarely recognized or studied. It is not adequately taught. There is no canon or norms of professional practice. American policymaking is less about deliberate engineering, and is more about improvised guesswork and bureaucratized habits.

My experience is as a historian who studies the details of policy episodes and the related staff work, but also as a former official who has analyzed a variety of domestic and foreign policy issues at all three levels of American government, including federal work from different bureaucratic perspectives in five presidential administrations from Ronald Reagan to Barack Obama. From this historical and contemporary vantage point, I am struck (and a bit depressed) that the quality of U.S. policy engineering is actually much, much worse in recent decades than it was throughout much of the 20th century. This is not a partisan observation — the decline spans both Republican and Democratic administrations.

I am not alone in my observations. Francis Fukuyama recently concluded that, “[T]he overall quality of the American government has been deteriorating steadily for more than a generation,” notably since the 1970s. In the United States, “the apparently irreversible increase in the scope of government has masked a large decay in its quality.”[1] This worried assessment is echoed by other nonpartisan and longtime scholars who have studied the workings of American government.[2] The 2003 National Commission on Public Service observed,
The notion of public service, once a noble calling proudly pursued by the most talented Americans of every generation, draws an indifferent response from today’s young people and repels many of the country’s leading private citizens. … The system has evolved not by plan or considered analysis but by accretion over time, politically inspired tinkering, and neglect. … The need to improve performance is urgent and compelling.[3]
And they wrote that as the American occupation of Iraq was just beginning. In this article, I offer hypotheses to help explain why American policymaking has declined, and why it was so much more effective in the mid-20th century than it is today. I offer a brief sketch of how American education about policy work evolved over the past hundred years, and I argue that the key software qualities that made for effective policy engineering neither came out of the academy nor migrated back into it. I then outline a template for doing and teaching policy engineering. I break the engineering methods down into three interacting sets of analytical judgments: about assessment, design, and implementation. In teaching, I lean away from new, cumbersome standalone degree programs and toward more flexible forms of education that can pair more easily with many subject-matter specializations. I emphasize the value of practicing methods in detailed and more lifelike case studies. I stress the significance of an organizational culture that prizes written staff work of the quality that used to be routine but has now degraded into bureaucratic or opinionated dross. Many former officials share such concerns, as will become apparent.[4] My suggestions use a relatively simple template, making it easy for people to learn and use it. But, as in engineering, knowing the steps for good policy design is much simpler than implementing them in professional practice. That is why in-depth case work in training and a strong organizational culture in practice are so important, and so difficult. Of course, some will point to dysfunction in the hardware of American politics and policy as a cause of the decline in policymaking prowess. But whatever the other issues, surely part of the solution to improving American policymaking must include better performance in analyzing, crafting, and implementing solutions to public problems.

Policymaking: Hardware vs. Software

The software of substantive public problem-solving overlaps with the formal procedures of government, but it is really a different subject. The software of policy is about how policies are crafted within a given set of processes and constraints. Software includes methods or routines for the way the substantive work is done, at the level of the individual professional and the institution. At every stage, the software includes organizational cultures for getting and evaluating information, for doing analysis, and for recording what is being done. By contrast, the tools and structures that frame the possibilities for useful work may be described as the hardware of policymaking. Explanations for failures of policy tend to focus on the structure of government. While hardware constraints are real, in my experience, problems often have at least as much to do with bad software. Good software is also one of the few defenses against bad hardware. For instance, amid all the public controversies about law in America, the United States still does reasonably well upholding the rule of law and the administration of justice. Why? One reason is because the American legal profession has established very strong norms about what constitutes appropriate legal reasoning and quality legal research and writing. This is software. [quote id="1"] Such norms are no sure cure for partisanship, caprice, incompetence, and corruption. But, in the American legal world, generally accepted norms for legal research and writing do help constrain excesses, clarify arguments and evidence, and expose sloppy work. They provide a common vocabulary for evaluation and analysis. In American public policy design, however, there are no comparable norms that distinguish professional craft. There is no commonly understood set of habits that routinely force out necessary questions and naturally highlight gaps in information or analysis. Good software, rigorous training, and strong organizational culture can decisively improve performance. One of the more interesting social-science experiments ever conducted for policy work, the University of Pennsylvania and U.C.-Berkeley’s “Good Judgment Project” led by Philip Tetlock, Barbara Mellers, and Don Moore, funded by the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity, ran from 2011 to 2015. It included work from more than 25,000 forecasters making more than a million predictions about world developments. The study’s basic conclusions: “First, talented generalists often outperform specialists in making forecasts. Second, carefully crafted training can enhance predictive acumen. And third, well-run teams can outperform individuals.”[5] Consider that an illustration of what is possible in just one facet of work.

Preparing to Make Policy

Bad policymaking is almost unavoidable when policymakers undertake complex and difficult work without adequate training or preparation. Unfortunately, a lack of adequate training or preparation seems to be the norm among American policymakers today. Why? I offer three premises: First, general training among senior and mid-level policy professionals is radically insufficient to prepare them to do action-focused analysis and assessment, high-quality written policy design work, and adaptive, people-centered implementation. Usually this training simply does not exist. Second, whatever the talents of individual politicians or officials or commentators, they will remain idiosyncratic unless the craft is institutionalized in a canon of professional education and the related ideas are better understood. Third, even if certain professional or graduate schools (e.g., in public policy, law, political science, or economics) had an effective canon of this kind, which I believe they do not, such programs — as currently configured — simply will not reach, or are effectively unavailable, to the large majority of people who will find themselves actually filling most senior and mid-level policy jobs. Modern American political history offers support for these premises, as I outline below. As this sketch reveals, the best practices that made the software of American policymaking successful in the mid-20th century neither came out of the academy nor migrated back into it. They were never adequately turned into canonical methods, “carefully crafted training,” or an organizational culture of well-run analytical teams.

A Brief History of Preparing Policymakers

American education for public service “has differed from such education in most if not all other parts of the world.”[6] Outside of the Army and Navy, the notion of professional “careers” in public service did not emerge in America until the late 19th century. The passage of the Pendleton Act in 1883 created the first national civil service in America and many states adopted similar reforms. These laws required competitive examinations for entry into public service — although the educational levels required were not high. Basic literacy and numeracy were desired, as was some knowledge of accounting and some constitutional history. A loosely defined field of “public administration” arose during the early 20th century. The impetus for it was a delayed reaction to the rapid urbanization of America, one of the great social upheavals in the history of the country. The field of public administration combined general administrative skills and knowledge (e.g., finance, accounting, personnel management), relevant technical knowledge (e.g., hydrology, criminology), and some knowledge about emerging social sciences. The Training School for Public Service, founded in 1911, was typical among pioneering public administration institutions. At first not associated with any university, it was instead part of the New York Bureau of Municipal Research, founded in 1906. In 1931, the Training School in New York City broke up. Part of it went to Columbia University and part to the important Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University, which was founded in 1924 with six public administration students. The Woodrow Wilson School was established at Princeton University in 1930. In Washington, DC, Robert Brookings founded a research institute and graduate school in the early 1920s, later reduced just to research. Between 1914 and 1930, several dozen institutions created small programs in public or municipal administration.[7] Diplomacy escaped all formal professionalization until early in the 20th century. Diplomats, as distinct from consuls, did not begin to have to pass examinations until the mid-1920s. “Then, as now, many of the higher diplomatic posts remained ‘spoils.’”[8] In the United States, expertise in statecraft was often equated with experience in the principles and practice of international law. To foster its study, the American Society of International Law was founded in 1906. Some indication of the society’s stature can be gathered from noting that its first president was Elihu Root (1906–24), who had been Theodore Roosevelt’s secretary of war and then secretary of state. When Root stepped down, his place was taken by the then-secretary of state (and future chief justice of the Supreme Court), Charles Evans Hughes (1924–29). In those years, the society regularly held meetings at the White House and was addressed by the president. In addition to skill in the practice of international law, skill in foreign policy work was also often associated with the knowledge of international business. Familiarity with diplomatic history was a plus, as was knowledge of foreign languages, geography, and culture. The new law schools could well have become a broader base for training policymakers. But the formative ones, such as Harvard Law under Dean Christopher Langdell, sought to foster as their distinct intellectual identity a new science of legal thinking, its principles to be discovered through the study of cases. In this context, “administrative law” became a field within law schools, conceived of as an effort to decode the legal principles that guided court review of administrative decisions.[9] Very early, the public administration schools moved away from older styles of training in governing philosophies, political thought, and civic virtue, the kinds of educations urged by men like Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Abraham Lincoln, or John Stuart Mill. Like the founders of American political science, these academic leaders thought such educational agendas were old-fashioned and too concerned with formal structures. Instead, the new leaders of these schools wanted to move beyond discussions of political philosophy and civic virtue. They wanted to build policies on the scientific study of social conditions and political behavior. They hoped that “scientific — ‘what is’ — studies would replace public-spirited — ‘what should be’ — studies.” Their argument was that by understanding the sociology of criminal behavior, the economics of labor unrest, the public health of cities, or the patterns of behavior among elected officials, there would be a scientific basis for action, and that this was better than just a lot of nostalgic, virtuous philosophizing.[10] This model for a school of public administration added some value. Various disciplines gathered valuable information about social conditions and theories about social behavior. Public administration was then informed by such knowledge. But neither the early schools, like Maxwell, nor the emerging discipline of “political science,” developed a canon for how best to apply scientific knowledge to higher-level policy design.[11] [quote id="2"] Political science was built up as a discipline to consider policymakers objectively, as objects of study. Such scientists view the behavior of policymakers much as entomologists view the behavior of insects. Neither set of scientists are necessarily concerned with giving “how to” advice to their subjects. In saying this, I am not trying to join a culture war decrying the relevance of social science. I simply observe the way such scientists tend to formulate their problems and questions, which then affects everything else. Much of the debate about relevance in those disciplines is a supply-side argument: that if they produced different scholarship, such work would be more influential. My argument in this article is different. It is a demand-side argument. It is that, as the software of policy work has deteriorated, the people doing policy work no longer do the analysis — or articulate the questions — to seek out and use relevant knowledge, whatever its source. I think it will be most impactful to fix the demand side of the problem. The Golden Age of American Policymaking Policy staff work of all kinds achieved a relative high point with the crises of the 1940s. The craft and discipline of policymaking was already surging because of the public responses to the Great Depression. But World War II produced a vast mobilization of talent to tackle a staggering array of military, economic, and governance problems. The Allied successes included extremely high-quality policy work on grand strategy, logistics, and problem-solving of every kind. The German and Japanese high commands were comparably deficient in all these respects.[12] Paul Kennedy calls this software advantage the “most important variable of all.” Analytically, he noticed “a support system, a culture of encouragement, efficient feedback loops, a capacity to learn from setbacks, an ability to get things done.” All of this could permit “the middlemen in this grinding conflict the freedom to experiment, to offer ideas and opinions, and to cross traditional institutional boundaries.”[13] From these tremendous accomplishments, I note five observations: First, no one should overly romanticize the often quarrelsome, wasteful, and chaotic world of Washington during these years. There were many mistakes, some of them deadly and disastrous. Nor did the skills come from a well-thought-through template of the kind proposed in this paper. They emerged piecemeal from vast and stressful experience, amid plenty of bureaucratic rivalry and confusion. Second, the experience arose from years of trial and error in managing the most challenging rival sets of claims and arguments on a global scale. With their long experience in doing this, including the challenges of managing resources, shipping, and manpower, the British staffing systems were the most evolved. British staffing practices were envied and then emulated by the Americans. Third, the relevant qualities did not, by and large, migrate from the American universities. Nor did the qualities migrate back to them. Fourth, the relevant qualities did emerge from some distinctive cultures and leaders. One big tributary was the very strong, decentralized problem-solving culture of American business in the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s.[14] In that era, the paradigmatic discipline of American business and industry was engineering, and the paradigmatic figure was that of the ingenious tinkerer who deeply understood both design and production and knew his way around the shop floor. Bill Knudsen at General Motors, who started his career in bicycle and auto parts, and as a builder of steam engines, was a typical and well-known exemplar. Another great tributary was the managerial culture inside the armed forces, fostered by specific individuals. The military leaders during the war who set the tone for the high-level staff work were strategic managers — men like George C. Marshall or the civilian resource manager, Ferdinand Eberstadt, rather than “warriors” like Douglas MacArthur. It was no accident that Marshall elevated his most trusted staffer and planner in 1942, Dwight Eisenhower, to top command. Marshall and Eisenhower had strong views about the organizational culture of effective policymaking. Underperforming staff officers or program managers were frequently relieved and reassigned. Fifth, the wartime and immediate postwar experience profoundly influenced organizational culture for another generation or so. A great many Americans had been drawn into the work of higher-level policy design on numerous topics. “One analyst referred to [the war] as the largest program in postdoctoral education for faculty in the nation’s history.” There was a similar impact on the nation’s lawyers.[15] The breadth of experience summed up by these five observations about policy culture and staff work carried over into postwar efforts. In 1947, as secretary of state, Marshall used his first national radio address to the American people to remind them that, “Problems which bear directly on the future of our civilization cannot be disposed of by general talk or vague formulae – by what Lincoln called ‘pernicious abstractions.’ They require concrete solutions for definite and extremely complicated questions.”[16] The military and business cultures of the United States in this period were intensely oriented toward practical problem-solving. They emphasized meticulous written staff work: unending flows of information and estimates, habitual preparation of meeting records or minutes, constant and focused debates about priorities and tradeoffs, and guidance directives drafted with concise precision that a lawyer would envy. The result, especially by 1943 and afterward, was marked in dozens of projects from the atom bomb to the Marshall Plan to the Berlin Airlift. Any close study of such efforts reveals superior construction of large-scale, complex multi-instrument policy packages, including frequent adjustments. The point about constant adjustment and iteration is notable. Even in military technology, most of the key Allied innovations turned out to be second-generation innovations. In other words, they were not the airplanes or ships that were available or in production at the start of the war. Instead, they were new or improved models of every kind, several of which had not even been imagined before the war. They were developed with agility and on a massive scale by a number of agencies and scores of companies in response to ongoing lessons learned, lessons that were constantly, consciously being extracted and studied. It is difficult for those who have not pored through the archives to appreciate the scale and scope of this work, ranging from economic statecraft to amphibious operations to science policy. The extraordinary sets of official history volumes from World War II, familiar to historians of the period, give a sense for the work. They are also a striking illustration of the organizational culture that would produce such meticulous and admirable historical analyses. The organizational culture that accomplished so much during the war was passed along mainly through imitation and apprenticeship. But the best practices did not migrate into standardized training or academic degree programs. The Microeconomic Turn The mid-20th-century academic paradigm of policymaking assumed a relatively neat separation between “policy” on the one hand (often equated with lawmaking) and “administration” on the other, presumably informed by good social science. By the 1960s, this older paradigm seemed more and more out of date. Although intellectuals recognized the huge intermediate space that was being filled by policymaking, academia had trouble figuring out how to teach it. Older public administration programs suffered an institutional identity crisis. The private foundations that had helped build up that field in the 1930s lost interest. The field of public administration fell into lower repute as compared with the rising social sciences. Partly in response, a new trend in public policy education took shape. The social sciences were developing new techniques for the systematic analysis of public policies using analytic models, many derived from economic theory, along with quantitative methods. The federal government was pouring money not only into the expansion of government services, but also into training programs. In 1958, the Government Employees Training Act became law, while grants from the Civil Service Commission helped to subsidize large numbers of mid-career students. Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School was transformed by a 1965 gift from Charles and Marie Robertson. In 1968, the University of Michigan converted its public administration institute into an institution for “public policy studies.” Also in 1968, Harvard scrapped its former school of public administration, established a new John F. Kennedy School of Government, and developed an entirely new academic program for it. During that same academic year, the University of California created a new Graduate School of Public Policy at its flagship Berkeley campus, awarding a new “public policy” degree to replace its earlier offering in public administration. [quote id="3"] Dedicating one of the new buildings at the Woodrow Wilson School in May 1966, President Lyndon Johnson proclaimed that “the public servant today moves along paths of adventure where he is helpless without the tools of advanced learning.” He said the country would need “enormous new drafts of trained manpower into the public service.” A presidential task force recommended new programs to train these “enormous new drafts.” Foundations like Carnegie and Ford took on the role that the Social Science Research Council had played in an earlier generation. All this momentum produced one of the most significant changes in professional higher education of that generation. “At the heart of this shift [during the 1960s and early 1970s] was a growing faith in the power and prestige of economics as a field, a method, and even a science.” For instance, “in and around Robert McNamara’s Department of Defense, economists put into practice techniques of program analysis and benefit-cost measurement, which President Lyndon Johnson then forced on all domestic departments involved in building his Great Society.” One scholar involved in this shift recalled
visiting the office of a cabinet secretary in order to explain to him a several-hundred-page booklet on policy planning budget systems, one of the hallmark techniques of the era. He came upon the secretary fingering the booklet and asking, ‘What is this piece of shit?’ He had the pleasure of responding, ‘That piece of shit, sir, is what the president of the United States has directed that you introduce into your department.’[17]
The triumph of the RAND analysts, as some called it, put a lasting mark on education for public service. The core curriculum for that degree and similar foundational programs, like the one at Berkeley, then set a widely imitated paradigm which claimed that it taught “policy analysis.” Economic tools for analyzing policy were regarded as novel. They fostered evidentiary discussion of outcomes. And, because the tools came from “demanding social science disciplines,” they “helped give the curriculum of the fledgling public policy schools a certain kind of legitimacy in the academic world in which they were struggling for academic respect.”[18] “But left open, however,” one of the founding deans of such schools recalled,
were the answers to two further important questions: first, the extent to which schools of public policy intended to train individuals to participate effectively in the governmental process as policy makers as well as policy analysts; and if so, how individuals trained to be policy analysts, or policy makers … would relate to the political processes that were an inevitable part of policy making in a democratic society.[19]
Further, in the new curricula the definition of “policy analysis” was narrowed. In this paradigm, policy analysis teaching would focus on “economics, statistics, and quantitative analysis.” In such core curricula, at least half of the courses are in economics and statistics.[20] They focus especially on cost-benefit analysis and the microeconomic fields of behavioral economics, game theory, and operations research. Any student who masters this curriculum and the relevant statistics applications would be equipped to contribute to certain kinds of policy-related research. The student could model theories of action for certain kinds of public problems. But most policymaking challenges, and the related staff work, call upon different sets of skills. As a result, even as it triumphed in this part of academia, the microeconomic paradigm of policy analysis was passing out of fashion in much of government. In the world of foreign policy, the microeconomic paradigm never gained much traction to begin with, except in segments of development work.[21] Some studies have been done on the alumni of this kind of policy analysis education to see how well it worked for them in practice. The results seriously question the value of such core curricula. The alumni told the investigators that they wished they had learned more about topics like “policy design.”[22] While the study of policy analysis was taking its microeconomic turn, the study of “public administration” went through its crisis and advanced forward. It was revived as a field of “public management.” That field, fortunately, has continued to mature and advance.[23] Social Science and the Return of the Lawyers After World War II, law and lawyers became more and more powerful in establishing paradigms for domestic policymaking in the United States. In foreign policy, the story was very different. The older paradigm for expertise, that of international law, lost its dominant standing. No critic was more influential than the famous former diplomat George Kennan, who published a set of polemical lectures on “American Diplomacy” in 1951 attacking what he regarded as a legalist-moralist strain in American statecraft.[24] Kennan himself had no particular use for social science. He spent the rest of his life writing history and historical reflections. History and social science continue to be invaluable resources for evidence about trends and causes in social behavior. The gap remains in the application of this knowledge to the solution of practical problems. This is not because academics do bad work. Their work varies, as always. But, as I mentioned earlier, their work is fundamentally oriented to answering questions that are meaningful within their scholarly fields. These questions are very different from the kinds of questions actually encountered in the application of their knowledge to the solution of practical problems. There is a similar divide between the world of laboratory science disciplines and the world of engineering. Chemical engineering is not just applied chemistry. It is a distinctive discipline with canonical methods of its own. In the engineering disciplines, this point was grasped more than a hundred years ago. Law schools have become principal producers of the people who are actually going into the policy jobs. Lawyer-officials have ready gifts. They know how to make an argument. They are usually experienced writers. On a good day, they are relatively rigorous in attending to factual and legal detail. The tradeoff for these “generalist” skills, however, is a lack of much subject-matter or foreign expertise. Experienced as advocates who can pick evidence to defend a position, lawyers are not necessarily trained to weigh and sift positions on both sides. Experienced in being asked to decide what “can” be done, lawyers are not trained to analyze what “should” be done, even in policies having to do with policing or the administration of justice. They have no necessary experience in policy design, analysis, or implementation. Perhaps above all, a lawyerly cast to government tends to emphasize process over substance. Meetings proliferate. Sides are heard. The quality of written staff work takes second place.

The Teaching Problem and “Thick” Cases 

The World War II generation learned much about effective policy work, but never quite figured out how to teach it. Data for the microeconomic sort of policy analysis is also rarely connected to the data about implementation. Experts in program evaluation and experts in performance management became estranged, “a tale of two children who were brought up in the same house but were raised by different tribes and aren’t so friendly with one another.”[25] One part of the problem is that policy engineering is complicated. Assessing a policy situation is a classic problem of “thick description.” In academia, if readers will forgive me for lapsing momentarily into academic-speak, thick description
accurately describes observed social actions and assigns purpose and intentionality to these actions, by way of the researcher’s understanding and clear description of the context under which the social actions took place. Thick description captures the thoughts and feelings of participants as well as the often complex web of relationships among them. Thick description leads to thick interpretation, which in turn leads to thick meaning of the research findings. … Thick meaning of findings leads readers to a sense of verisimilitude, wherein they can cognitively and emotively ‘place’ themselves within the research context.[26]
For readers who got bogged down in that definition, the punch line is in the last sentence. Consider the Marshall Plan, for example. The simple memory of this might be that Americans wisely displayed exceptional generosity and foresight in committing a lot of money to help rebuild Europe. But that level of understanding barely begins to comprehend the qualities of the work involved in developing and implementing the European Recovery Program. The genius of the program is found in the details of the design, which are difficult to summarize quickly but include the way the plan involved the Europeans in working out the program designs and new ways to cooperate within Europe, the way the program set up and used local “counterpart” funds for acquisitions in each of the participating European countries, and the way it rallied wary U.S. congressmen with elements that appealed to the businessmen in their districts. Even at the level of higher strategy, the Marshall Plan reflected a choice of where to commit resources and energy — in this case, a massive commitment to Western Europe amid the simultaneous clamor for a commitment instead to America’s favored side in China’s civil war. Many public policy problems are like this, “thick” with successive stages of problem-solving, each with layers of analysis and context. Such thick problems are relatively resistant to social science generalizations. They also confound quests for generic forecasting. The problem has spawned an extensive literature about the craft of analyzing and sifting specific information, although in America much of this work is mainly known and taught among professional intelligence analysts.[27] All this is hard to translate to the classroom for a variety of reasons. First, many teachers do not have the requisite knowledge of policy-relevant details, because they have never been involved in the subject-matter specialization and because their scholarly disciplines do not usually expect (or even want) them to master such problem-solving skills. [quote id="4"] Second, hiring practitioners does not necessarily help. When ex-practitioners go into the classroom, they can often tell stories. They remember some of the details. Yet, they have no canon for how to teach about their experiences. One expert who surveyed courses in diplomacy all over America found that the differences were enormous. Across academics and practitioners alike, she concluded, “I could not find a common core.” Instead, what she found were courses that just elide the messy challenge of how to solve problems, especially if they involved other governments. Some courses focus on acquiring transnational expertise, “without distrusted national governments getting in the way.” Other courses dodge engagement by being aimed more at Americans who view the world as “a pathological mess” and just want protection from it. Then they focus on security studies, including intelligence, like the study of how to diagnose a disease, without attempting to teach about how to solve a foreign problem.[28] Third, college courses prefer “thin” cases that are easy to digest and understand in a single class before moving on to the next topic. The structure of a course usually leaves little time for students to delve very deeply into the details, personalities, and issues in any specific episode. To do so requires too much reading or assumes too much background knowledge. Students like stories. But, in the classroom, memorably thin descriptions and colorful anecdotes are preferred. Even classes that use a case method rarely devote multiple classes, much less weeks, to microexamination of a single case, however rich it may be. One popular solution to teaching about problem-solving is to stage a simulation. Yet, simulations in such simplified thin cases “devolve rather rapidly into theater.” International crisis simulations reinforce the notion of diplomacy as “an event or series of events, of crisis management or negotiations done in a matter of days.” To a veteran practitioner, “Diplomacy is to simulations as the practice of medicine is to the TV show ‘ER.’”[29] Another practice in contemporary teaching about policy work enjoins students to try writing “options” papers, modeled on policy memos. A typical policy memo in contemporary American government consists of some discussion of what is going on, something about process, and recommended talking points. If there is any policy analysis at all, it rarely advances much beyond op-ed style argument. As if to learn to imitate this mediocrity, students writing options papers are often urged to keep their papers short — op-ed length — supposedly so they can learn how to engage the attention of busy policymakers. The would-be experts thus learn to be experts by dumbing themselves down. Such training does not prepare students to engage professionally with the messy details of the policy instruments being used or the messy details of the local circumstances in which these concepts may actually be tested.

The Organizational Culture Problem

The usual focus in the study of organizational culture is on the culture of operators, of the “street-level bureaucracy,” as the title of one classic work put it.[30] These studies tend to neglect the organizational culture of higher-level policy work. Yet, it was just that part of organizational culture that was so essential in the software of the American organization for victory in World War II and its most effective public problem-solving in the postwar years. This part of the software is made up of formal and informal routines for activities that seem mundane, but are not. These cultural routines and habits define the way the key organizations distribute information about what is going on, including the ways top officials get their information every morning; comment upon or “clear” incoming reports or policy papers; delegate policy work; interact with “the field”; analyze issues for higher-level discussion and decision; resolve differences, either through written work or in meetings; record and brief about policy discussions and decisions; and critique their work. There are great variations in these practices. American practices are different than in other governments. They even vary greatly over time within the same agency. Two specific examples, both in the foreign policy world, illustrate this point. Through World War II and the postwar years, daily information about what was going on in the world was provided to top leaders by diplomatic and military reports, from the State Department and the armed services. Beginning in the 1960s, and evolving very slowly during the next 30 years, the CIA took over the job. The CIA became a systematic primary source of daily publications and briefings to tell top leaders what was going on in the world. The armed forces’ products quickly receded in importance and the quality deteriorated. By the 2000s, the State Department’s daily morning product had disappeared altogether and was abolished. Intelligence agencies have very particular strengths and weaknesses in what they follow and what they do. So, reliance on the intelligence agencies for the morning “papers” has very large effects on what policymakers see about the world. It also has very damaging effects on the incentives and quality surrounding diplomatic and military reporting. But this growing reliance on the daily worldview of the intelligence community (not necessarily drawing from foreign field presence or experience) was not the product of a conscious policy choice. It evolved incrementally, with little notice or reflection. Records of policy discussions provide another example of the variation of organizational cultures over time. Through the war and postwar years, careful records were usually kept for all high-level meetings among American officials. This is hard to do. It was not done mainly out of regard for historians, although that was a factor. It was done because such records were considered essential for good government. It forced reflection on what had been said or not said. It helped others stay current if they had a need to know what was going on. These habits were so thoroughly ingrained that even when President Eisenhower met one-on-one with his secretary of state, almost invariably one or both men would routinely prepare a written record of what they had just said to each other. The secret recording systems used by Presidents Kennedy, Johnson, and Richard Nixon were an extension of such habits, as dictabelts and tape machines made their way into offices. Henry Kissinger’s staff prepared excellent records of about 15,000 of his meetings and telephone calls. These routines remained relatively strong through the 1970s and even well into the 1980s, though they were starting to fade. It is now rare to find any good records kept of what is said at meetings among American officials. The quality of the records of meetings with foreigners has also deteriorated. The usual excuse given is the horror of leaks. But that horror was perfectly familiar to officials of the wartime and postwar generation as well. Though constantly irritated by leaks, those past officials thought that the net value of routines of good governance took precedence. The real reasons for the change are likely more banal. There was no conscious policy choice across the administrations to quit preparing good records. It is just hard to do it. Without a routinized discipline, it vanishes from the day-to-day culture. In the postwar period, detailed written estimates and policy staff work were the norm. Papers were subjected to constant peer review from colleagues who were similarly trained and experienced. Very busy officers were accustomed to writing and reading lengthy papers of this kind every day. Thousands of Americans acquired such experience. They could be found operating at the highest levels in Marshall Plan development (such as the famed economists Charles Kindleberger and Edward Mason), occupation governance (such as the young Kissinger), strategic planning, research and development (for example, Vannevar Bush’s team at the wartime Office of Scientific Research and Development and later in the creation of the National Science Foundation), and much more. One pattern in the War Department culture was that responsibility for planning and responsibility for operations were inseparable. A planner had to be willing and able to convert his work into action.[31] Developing these habits, the Americans during the 1940s were strongly influenced, through common work in various Allied organizations, by long-established and relatively high-quality British processes for collective policy analysis and staff work. Eisenhower was both a product and exemplar of such Allied experience. Although the origins are almost forgotten, the 1947 creation of America’s National Security Council system was greatly influenced by the model of British systems, including the British War Cabinet system. Many of the Americans had come to know, imitate, and grudgingly admire those staffing methods. They consciously adapted analogous habits of systematic paper preparation, record-keeping, historical evaluation, peer commentary, lucid guidance, and collective decision-making. Eisenhower well understood this background about why the National Security Council was created and how it was originally expected to function. He was the last American president who did.[32] [quote id="5"] The Pentagon Papers on the decisions made during the Vietnam War, the subject of the 2017 film, “The Post,” were an anachronism in more than one way. As bad as the Vietnam decisions were, the policy papers were long, detailed, and rigorous. The Pentagon Papers were such a revelation because this underlying policy work, and the dilemmas being presented, were relatively lucid and self-revealing. Suppose contemporary officials actually opened up and read some of these documents about Vietnam today. Suppose they contrasted the quality of the memos written in the 1960s with the papers they have seen cross their desk more recently, say, on policy toward Afghanistan or Iraq. These officials might be a bit bewildered. In their own working lives, they may never have seen written staff analyses of this kind, work that was so commonplace 50 years ago.[33] The sheer existence of the Pentagon Papers project is another revealing symptom of a vanished organizational culture. This work of thoroughgoing historical reflection was done at the direct behest of Secretary of Defense McNamara, during the Johnson administration. Back then, this sort of high-quality review was not so strange. There were other searching, internal self-examinations, like the ones done after the Bay of Pigs fiasco, or after the swine flu vaccine mess during the Ford administration. It is hard now to imagine the kind of American government that would even commission an internal study as meticulous as the Pentagon Papers, or the kind of studies the Kennedy and Ford administrations ordered to examine their own failures.[34] Outsiders — and even many insiders, especially the less-experienced ones — are unconscious of most of this software, and how much it varies. Historians rarely notice such things or compare contrasting routines over time. Although the details of such staffing practices have been extensively studied in Britain, I do not know of any comparable published work on these practices in the United States. One way to spot the decline in the quality of written policy work is to notice if the paper simply describes what is going on and then moves on to statements of what “we” want, with “talking points.” In this environment, PowerPoint slides replace prose analysis. As the quality of written staff work declines, fewer decisions can be made based off the paperwork. High-level meetings proliferate. They become a surrogate for good written analysis and advocacy. In such oral processes, delegation of analysis and action is more difficult. More and more policy work gets pulled up to the level of overworked principals, and their own ill-documented oral meetings. Meanwhile, senior agency officials turn more and more into functionaries. As they know their work or views are less meaningful, the trend reinforces the downward cycle. The older organizational culture naturally placed a high value on in-depth knowledge and analysis. In the CIA’s analytic world, for instance, Cold War-era estimates “could draw on a deep base of knowledge,” the 9/11 Commission observed in 2004. But,
[w]hen the Cold War ended, those investments could not easily be reallocated to new enemies. The cultural effects ran even deeper. In a more fluid international environment with uncertain, changing goals and interests, intelligence managers no longer felt they could afford such a patient, strategic approach to long-term accumulation of intellectual capital. A university culture with its versions of books and articles was giving way to the culture of the newsroom.[35]
With the disappearance of these organizational cultures, largely unnoticed, the software of policymaking that went with them also faded away about a generation ago. The deterioration in policymaking software has had a huge impact, as several recent policy episodes, including the Iraq War, have made clear. Yet, the present generation of policymakers and politicians are, understandably, not even aware of what has happened or how the government has changed.

A Template for Policy Engineering: Assessment … Design … Implementation

“Design process” is a phrase that is foundational in engineering education, in which students are trained in how to apply knowledge to the solution of practical problems. One of the main purposes of an engineering design process is to generate better questions and focus them constructively. Such focused questions then drive more specific, in-depth assessment. Engineers are often taught a set of steps they must memorize, steps that are put on a card they carry in their wallet. The specific steps memorized by engineering trainees vary from textbook to textbook or teacher to teacher. Common formulas have five or seven steps. MIT’s fine course on “Engineering Innovation and Design” in its renowned Gordon Engineering Leadership Program has a 10-step design process.[36] “Design” has become a fashionable concept during the last ten years. Although the usages overlap, they vary in important ways. In the business world, “design thinking” has become a term synonymous with a search for greater creativity in thinking about what the firm is trying to do. A leader in this field is the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford’s d.school. Its guide to design thinking breaks down a process with five stages (with sub-methods for each): empathize (with the user), define (the challenge), ideate, prototype, and test.[37] At the end of the 2000s, reacting to a very difficult and complex set of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. Army decided it needed to add the concept of “design” to its basic field manual for “the operations process.” Officers now argue about what “Army design methodology” means in practice. At a minimum, it is the Army’s way of urging commanders who are confronting complex or unfamiliar problems to stop and think harder about what they are trying to do. Officers are urged to at least “give a bit of structure to those periodic conversations any commander has with his staff officers to improve his appreciation of the mission.” This should at least take the form of four questions, about what is going on, what exactly is the desired end state, what is the theory of strategic action to get that result, and how to act and speak to make good on that theory.[38] [quote id="6"] Meanwhile, within academia, some scholars of public management have pressed for a turn toward a “new” study of policy design, what they call “design 2.0.” These experts reject the stock analyses that just relate tools to outputs, a superficial “means-ends understanding of policy formulation.” Instead, they call attention to the multilayered and deeply context-dependent nature of modern policy design.[39] In the world of business schools, the field of “decision analysis” — a required part of the usual first-year MBA curriculum — consists substantially of teaching students how to assign number weights to values and probabilities and then work up equations that integrate the calculation of these variables.[40] It does not, however, actually teach a policy design framework. A process for policy work, which itself is often called a “design process,” is all about assessment, design, and implementation. [41] Assessments Assessments are judgments about circumstances. These appreciations are always a compound of assessments of reality, what we or “they” think is going on; assessments about values, what we or “they” care about; and preliminary assessments about action — what, if anything, might be done. In this context, the action judgment is simply the threshold cognitive judgment — can we do something about this? — that then influences how much attention we give to the problem. There are various heuristic aids to assessment: weighing alternative interpretations of available evidence, weighing alternative futures and scenarios, assigning probabilities, and more.[42] Good assessment has at least four elements: Design Design is the choreography of action. A more academic definition of policy design, developed by scholars working in Canada and Singapore, calls it: “an activity conducted by a range of policy actors at different levels of action in the hope of improving policymaking and policy outcomes through the accurate anticipation of the consequences of government actions and the articulation of specific courses of action to be followed to achieve different levels of policy goals and ambitions.” Such design work occurs “within the context of designing complete policy packages. … [So] each policy and program is a complex arrangement of ends and means-related goals, objectives, instruments, and calibrations that exists in a specific governance and temporal setting, and these contexts must be taken into account if effective program design is to result from design efforts.”[44] To put this a little more simply, the “design” part of a policy design process includes choices about: To offer a simple illustration of how such a framework could be applied, just consider one part, the “operational objectives,” in the Trump administration’s trade and tariff policy toward China. Are they to gain a trade deal that would more fairly recouple the American and Chinese economies? If so, what would be a concrete definition of success? Or the operational objectives could be the opposite — to decouple the two economies. Again, what would be a concrete, working definition of whether that objective had been attained? Or the operational objectives could be defined as a targeted increase in U.S. manufacturing employment, or as a reduction of U.S. bilateral current account deficits. And so on. Obviously, the analysis of these different operational objectives then open up quite different questions about the best theories of action and choreographies of what should be done. Yet, since at the moment (September 2019) no one can tell what the operational objectives are for the U.S. policy, the policy becomes inherently incoherent. Implementation Implementation is the final part of the policy work. It is attentive to local circumstances, the realities of the field, and the many stakeholders involved. At every stage, the software includes the organizational cultures for getting and evaluating information, for doing analysis, and for recording what is being done. As with the other elements, implementation is not separate from assessment and design. It interacts with them, as implementation informs ongoing reevaluation of everything else. [45] This whole template — conscious methods for assessment, design, and implementation — is itself just a kind of heuristic tool. As with the engineering trainees memorizing the steps on their wallet cards, such tools are both a discipline and a defense. They are a kind of analytical checklist that provide a bit more protection against so many insistent claims that divert and distract attention.

Policy Education Should Not Stand Alone

The wartime and postwar science adviser, public official, and longtime president of Harvard, James Conant, regarded Harvard’s public administration school, established in the late 1930s, as his greatest failure. He observed that two approaches had to be balanced. Such public affairs education should not, he thought, duplicate business schools by trying to build an entirely separate faculty. He thought such education should draw on the resources of the university as a whole. At the same time, Conant thought it was important to have a curriculum that did not emphasize a science of public administration separated from its policy content.[46] Colleges of arts and sciences, and the major professional schools (law, business, engineering, medicine) all turn out women and men who work on public policy. In fact, despite the growth of the policy schools, these older institutions empirically still contribute the great majority of the citizens who work on such problems, including at the higher levels of policymaking. Yet, none of those “regular” schools are, or can be, primarily interested in public policy or education for public service. Even at the leading policy schools, only a fraction of their graduates actually go into public service.[47] The challenge, then, is in how to offer a distinctive preparation for citizen involvement in public policy. Aside from the general education of citizens, the professionals who are most likely to identify a need for more professional training tend to be in government, including the military, foreign service, intelligence, and legislative staff; law, including as a possible addition to law school work; business, including as a possible addition to business school work; academia, including as a possible addition to PhD or MA programs; applied science, including engineering, public health, and medical practice; and nonprofit organizations. Many of the key jobholders already in government are primarily trained in specialized field and technical duties. Their often-admirable training does not include adequate preparation for policymaking challenges outside their traditional functional and managerial skillsets. Traditional graduate studies related to policy work tend to bifurcate into two very distinct tracks — a professional master’s degree program and an academic PhD program. Both of these programs serve important purposes, but they leave a major gap. The PhD students develop rigorous research skills to investigate theories in their fields, but are largely insulated from consideration of real-world policymaking.[48] Professional master’s students are exposed to some complexities and challenges of practice. The strength of these programs can be training in quantitative analytic methods, public administration, and advocacy. For various reasons, they do not provide rigorous training in the kind of strategic and design thinking needed for problem-solving, nor do they impart enough relevant substantive knowledge.[49] In addition, students are forced to make a fateful choice early in their studies. They can either pursue the law or master’s degree, which opens the path to the world of practice yet can mean foregoing a career in teaching and research. Or they can pursue the academic PhD and sharply steer away from training in practical problem-solving. An alternative approach would be to develop a relatively flexible curriculum. It would be conceived not as an alternative educational pathway, but as a broadening or extension of a core path that a student or professional has already chosen. Rather than forcing students to choose between a traditional “major” or career track and public service, the purpose of the curriculum would be to help students learn how to apply their core interest (and others they may discover) to public service. This complementary curriculum thus need not emphasize in-depth subject-matter education in particular regions of the world or in functional specialties like development, public health, cyberspace, or public order. The curriculum should instead be designed and delivered so that it can complement many such specializations. Such a curriculum could have at least three especially distinctive features: first, instruction and practice in analysis of detailed information and the assessment of situations. These assessments must grow out of a relatively deep ability to understand and imagine governance in unfamiliar institutions. Second, instruction and practice in a conscious policy design process: This process can teach students how to break down complex policy problems. Then they can learn how to unpack and identify critical questions or choices, using a common conceptual vocabulary. Finally, the curriculum could make extensive use of detailed case studies, both historical and contemporary, as projects in which students can develop a series of specific skills in working with situations of potential cooperation and conflict. These projects can be sustained over weeks, to give a sense of iterative change and adjustment. Some programs have tried such “policy task forces/workshops.”[50] [quote id="7"] The skills to develop in such extended exercises can include attention to the routine habits of effective staff work. They include familiarity with the role of budgeting in policymaking, crafting public statements, participation in policy debates, role-playing to understand the perspectives of others and gain experience with negotiation, and learning to orchestrate and evaluate the implementation of a policy. Such an educational initiative carries with it a major agenda for research. More and better “thick” case studies are needed, of the kind that are indispensable in other realms of professional education. The traditional scholarly disciplines have a specific understanding of what “case studies” mean for their investigations, but those case studies are rarely very useful for this kind of practical education. At some policy schools, such cases as exist have been prepared by professional “casewriters” who often do not have substantive training in the topic and whose work may not reflect the best scholarship or expert analysis. The range of possible studies of this kind is enormous. Such studies can bring “thick” problems and fateful choices to life.

Conclusion

There are obviously several major ways to explain the decline in government performance and the collapse in public trust in the U.S. government since the high-water marks of the late 1950s and early 1960s. Since the early 1960s, the government has tried to do much more — around the world and at home — and it is perceived to have usually fallen short, sometimes catastrophically so. It is not very useful to blame the anti-Washington discourse. Such scapegoating of Washington is not new. It is an old, old theme in American history. Nor do I blame incompetent delivery of basic services, which are still reasonably good in America. Part of the story is a record of policy failures: the tendency to react to events rather than drive them, poorly specified objectives, confusing guidance, reliance on weakly evidenced suppositions, little grasp of organizational capacities, inability to adapt organizations to new problems, overreliance on ill-managed contractors. These are all symptoms. They are symptoms of policies that are badly designed. Weak knowledge of the history of certain issues or even of the government’s own policy record, a superficial grasp of other communities or institutions, and a preoccupation with reactions to daily news: These, too, are symptoms. They are symptoms of a weakening capacity for in-depth professional assessment. Of course, the marked tendency to militarize policy, to rely on military instruments and military policymakers, is no cure. It is another symptom of the breakdown, as American policymaking is dumbed down and becomes praetorian. Some of these problems can be blamed on bad structures and on polarized, dysfunctional politics. But that’s not all of the story. As the immensely powerful Qing empire in China began to decay in the early 1800s, a leading scholar began calling for reform of the Confucian system that selected and trained the country’s administrative elite. He looked around and saw “everything was falling apart … the administration was contaminated and vile.” The scholar, Bao Shichen, “found himself drawn toward more practical kinds of scholarship that were not tested on the civil service exams.” Bao “would in time become one of the leading figures in a field known broadly as ‘statecraft’ scholarship, an informal movement of Confucians who were deeply concerned with real-world issues of administration and policy.”[51] Tragically, for Bao and many of his reformist allies, though their efforts made some headway, it was not enough. They could not reverse the decline of their empire. The United States government has plenty of problems too. Fortunately, it is not yet at the point the Qing dynasty reached. Americans can reflect on a proud heritage, not far in the past, when Americans were notorious across the world for their practical, can-do skills in everything from fixing cars to tackling apparently insurmountable problems, public as well as private. These seemingly bygone skills were not in their genes or in the air. They need not be consigned to wistful nostalgia. The skills were specific. They were cultural. And they are teachable.   Philip Zelikow is the White Burkett Miller Professor of History and J. Wilson Newman Professor of Governance at the Miller Center of Public Affairs, both at the University of Virginia. His books and essays focus on critical episodes in American and world history. A former civil rights attorney and career diplomat, he has served at all levels of American government. He was the executive director of the 9/11 Commission and, before that, directed the Carter-Ford commission on federal election reform. He has also worked on international policy in each of the five administrations from Reagan through Obama.   Image: Nicepik [post_title] => To Regain Policy Competence: The Software of American Public Problem-Solving [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => to-regain-policy-competence-the-software-of-american-public-problem-solving [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-09-09 12:37:16 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-09-09 16:37:16 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://tnsr.org/?p=1862 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [lead] => American policymaking has declined over the past several decades, but it is something that can be regained. It is not ephemeral or lost to the mists of time. The skills needed to tackle public problem-solving are specific and cultural — and they are teachable. [pubinfo] => [issue] => Vol 2, Iss 4 [quotes] => Array ( [0] => Array ( [author] => [style] => left [text] => The software of policy is about how policies are crafted within a given set of processes and constraints. ) [1] => Array ( [author] => [style] => right [text] => Very early, the public administration schools moved away from older styles of training in governing philosophies, political thought, and civic virtue, the kinds of educations urged by men like Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Abraham Lincoln, or John Stuart Mill.  ) [2] => Array ( [author] => [style] => left [text] => The organizational culture that accomplished so much during the war was passed along mainly through imitation and apprenticeship. But the best practices did not migrate into standardized training or academic degree programs. ) [3] => Array ( [author] => [style] => right [text] => Many public policy problems are like this, “thick” with successive stages of problem-solving, each with layers of analysis and context.  ) [4] => Array ( [author] => [style] => left [text] => One pattern in the War Department culture was that responsibility for planning and responsibility for operations were inseparable. A planner had to be willing and able to convert his work into action. ) [5] => Array ( [author] => [style] => right [text] => A process for policy work, which itself is often called a “design process,” is all about assessment, design, and implementation.  ) [6] => Array ( [author] => [style] => left [text] => Rather than forcing students to choose between a traditional “major” or career track and public service, the purpose of the curriculum would be to help students learn how to apply their core interest (and others they may discover) to public service. ) ) [style] => strategist [type] => Strategist [style_label] => The Strategist [download] => Array ( [title] => PDF Download [file] => ) [authors] => Array ( [0] => 102 ) [endnotes] => Array ( [title] => Endnotes [endnotes] => [1] Francis Fukuyama, Political Order and Political Decay (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2014), 469. [2] On other quality critiques, see, e.g., Donald Kettl, Escaping Jurassic Government: How to Recover America’s Lost Commitment to Competence (Washington: Brookings Institution Press, 2016); and Paul Light, “A Cascade of Failures: Why Government Fails, and How to Stop it,” Brookings Institution, July 2014, https://wagner.nyu.edu/files/faculty/publications/Light_Cascade_of_Failures_Why_Govt_Fails.pdf. [3] Urgent Business for America: Revitalizing the Federal Government for the 21st Century, National Commission on Public Service, chaired by Paul Volcker (Washington: Brookings Institution, 2003), 1–2. [4] A group of former officials who are also educators, and have thus worked on both sides of the fence, recently joined me in publishing a “Statement on Education for Public Problem Solving,” posted at a website that also includes some suggestive scholarship. https://fsi.stanford.edu/publicproblemsolving/docs/statement-working-group-public-problem-solving. [5] Paul J. H. Schoemaker and Philip E. Tetlock, “Superforecasting: How to Upgrade Your Company’s Judgment,” Harvard Business Review, May 2016, 4, https://hbr.org/2016/05/superforecasting-how-to-upgrade-your-companys-judgment; see generally Tetlock and Dan Gardner, Superforecasting: The Art and Science of Prediction (New York: Broadway Books, 2015). [6] Alexander Keyssar and Ernest May, “Education for Public Service in the History of the United States,” in, For the People: Can We Fix Public Service? ed. John D. Donahue and Joseph S. Nye Jr. (Washington, DC: Brookings, 2003), 225. [7] Keyssar and May, “Education for Public Service in the History of the United States,” 232. [8] Keyssar and May, “Education for Public Service in the History of the United States,” 230. [9] See William Chase, The American Law School and the Rise of Administrative Government (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1982), 29–49. [10] “Scientific,” Ralph Ketcham, Public-Spirited Citizenship: Leadership and Good Government in the United States (New York: Routledge, 2015), 102 (discussing the address of Harvard president A. Laurence Lovell to the new American Political Science Association in 1910). A perceptive Chinese political thinker of the early 20th century, Liang Qichao, much influenced by the work of John Dewey, was worried in 1919 about the trend in American political science toward “the omnipotence of science” amid a presumed social Darwinism of struggle among conflicting interests. Liang, trying to adapt Western ideas to his more Confucian sensibility, believed these trends were neglecting the older concentration on civic virtue and defining the public good. Ketcham, Public-Spirited Citizenship, 104–05. [11] Ketcham, Public-Spirited Citizenship, 101–30. Ketcham illustrates his argument with an appendix that offers a sharply observed history of the evolution of the Maxwell School at Syracuse (see pages 205–52). Both William Mosher, at Syracuse, and Charles Merriam, at the University of Chicago, produced early exemplary textbooks that tried to balance their social scientific observations of American public life with hortatory statements of their idealistic hopes for American government planning. Reviewers noted the “unresolved” tension between the specific science and the sermonizing idealism about how it should be applied in practice. Ketcham, Public-Spirited Citizenship, 226–27. [12] On the deficiencies of high-level German military staff work, especially on higher-level strategy, intelligence assessment, resource management, and logistics, see, e.g., Geoffrey Megargee, Inside Hitler’s High Command (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2000). [13] Paul Kennedy, Engineers of Victory: The Problem Solvers Who Turned the Tide in the Second World War (New York: Random House, 2013), 362, 372. A similar argument is made by Richard Overy, in Why the Allies Won (New York: Norton, 1997), who does not delve as deeply into the software that made the structures he praises so functional. [14] See, for example, Thomas McCraw and William Childs, American Business since 1920: How It Worked, 3rd ed. (New York: Wiley Blackwell, 2018), 26–28, 72–75 (emphasizing the decentralized management approaches of both Alfred Sloan at GM and Ferdinand Eberstadt in organizing war production). Explaining the “deindustrialization” of the 1970s and 1980s, they stress that, by then, “American management became more enamored with ‘financialization’ than with creating new products and services.” See page 232. [15] Keyssar and May, “Education for Public Service,” 233. [16] Marshall radio address, April 1947, quoted in Philip Zelikow, “George C. Marshall and the Moscow CFM Meeting of 1947,” Diplomacy and Statecraft 8 no. 2 (1997): 97, 116, https://doi.org/10.1080/09592299708406045. [17] Keyssar and May, “Education for Public Service,” 234; and Graham Allison, “Emergence of Schools of Public Policy: Reflections by a Founding Dean,” in, Oxford Handbook of Public Policy, ed. Michael Moran, Martin Rein, and Robert Goodin, (New York: Oxford University Press, 2006), 64. See generally, telling this triumph of the microeconomic turn as a success story, Beryl Radin, Beyond Machiavelli: Policy Analysis Comes of Age (Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press, 2000). Radin’s conception of policy analysis is triumphantly exclusive. It seems to simply ignore the existence of lawyers, diplomats, and health care policy wonks, among the many categories of people who believe they do such work. [18] Allison, “Emergence,” 68. Allison recounts that he focused much of his agenda as dean on offsetting this curricular bias by building up the public management curriculum, fostering executive programs, and raising funds for problem-focused research centers. This work did help the school take off and become relatively successful. But, even from his account, it is not clear that he ever fully addressed the two questions that bothered him from the start. [19] Allison, “Emergence of Schools of Public Policy,” 65. [20] Such courses are currently 16 of the 30 credits in the Harvard Kennedy School’s first-year master in public policy core curriculum: “Degree Requirements,” Harvard Kennedy School, accessed Aug. 26, 2019, https://www.hks.harvard.edu/educational-programs/masters-programs/master-public-policy/degree-requirements. [21] As I saw firsthand when chairing part of the Harvard Kennedy School’s core curriculum during the 1990s, several of the founders of the Harvard Kennedy School were deeply dissatisfied with the way the school’s core curriculum had developed. They believed the school had succumbed to the desire of much of the faculty to join the “third best economics department in Cambridge.” Richard Neustadt quoted in Graham Allison, “Institution Builder,” in, Guardian of the Presidency: The Legacy of Richard E. Neustadt, ed. Matthew Dickinson and Elizabeth Neustadt (Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press, 2009), 146–47. [22] For articles that focus on alumni of the Harvard Kennedy School, see, Carol Chetkovich, “What’s in a Sector? The Shifting Career Plans of Public Policy Students,” Public Administration Review 63 no. 6 (November 2003): 660–74, https://doi.org/10.1111/1540-6210.00330; and Mark Henderson and Carol Chetkovich, “Sectors and Skills: Career Trajectories and Training Needs of MPP Students,” Journal of Public Affairs Education 20 no. 2 (2014): 193–216, https://doi.org/10.1080/15236803.2014.12001782. [23] The modern field of public management has innovated and matured into a global movement, borrowing much from management innovations in the private sector. At the level of day-to-day job performance and integrity, federal bureaucrats seem to do at least as well as employees in private firms. See Donald Kettl, The Global Public Management Revolution, 2nd ed. (Washington, DC: Brookings Institution, 2005); and Hal Rainey, Understanding and Managing Public Organizations, 5th ed. (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2014), chap. 14. [24] George F. Kennan, American Diplomacy 1900-1950 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1951). [25] Donald F. Kettl, “Making Data Speak: Lessons for Using Numbers for Solving Public Policy Puzzles,” Governance 29 no. 4 (October 2016): 573–79, https://doi.org/10.1111/gove.12211; “a tale of two children,” Donald Moynihan quoted in Katherine Barrett and Richard Greene, “Government’s Data-Driven Frenemies,” Governing, March 17, 2016, http://www.governing.com/columns/smart-mgmt/gov-performance-measurement-program-evaluator.html. [26] Joseph Ponterotto, “Brief Note on the Origins, Evolution, and Meaning of the Qualitative Research Concept Thick Description,” Qualitative Report 11 no. 3 (2006): 538, 543, https://nsuworks.nova.edu/tqr/vol11/iss3/6/. [27] An introduction to this literature is available through the essays collected in Roger George and James Bruce, eds., Analyzing Intelligence: National Security Practitioners’ Perspectives, 2nd ed. (Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press, 2014). [28] Donna Marie Oglesby, “Diplomacy Education Unzipped,” Foreign Service Journal (January/February 2015): 27, 28, https://www.afsa.org/diplomacy-education-unzipped. [29] Barbara Bodine (a retired diplomat and current director of Georgetown’s Institute for the Study of Diplomacy), “Teaching Diplomacy as Process (Not Event): A Practitioner’s Song,” Foreign Service Journal (January/February 2015): 21, 24. [30] E.g., Michael Lipsky, Street-Level Bureaucracy: Dilemmas of the Individual in Public Services, 30th anniv. rev. ed. (New York: Russell Sage, 2010). For an example in the case of U.S. diplomats, see Kenneth Weisbrode, The Atlanticists: A Story of American Diplomacy, rev. ed. (Santa Ana, CA: Nortia Press, 2015). [31] See, for example, the detailed portrait in Ray Cline, Washington Command Post: The Operations Division, in the Historical Series on the U.S. Army in World War II, subseries for the War Department (Washington: Office of the Chief of Military History, 1951). [32] The initial proposal for a national security council, in the Eberstadt Report, was modeled on the British War Cabinet system and the wartime State-War-Navy Coordinating Committee, which had also been modeled on British practice. Douglas Stuart, Creating the National Security State (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2012), 89. For background on the Roosevelt practice, see also, Matthew Dickinson, Bitter Harvest: FDR, Presidential Power and the Growth of the Presidential Branch (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1999). Though this is mostly forgotten now, President Harry Truman was suspicious of the national security council proposal. He was suspicious precisely because he understood that it was modeled on the British War Cabinet and, like that system, was meant to dilute the power of the head of government and constrain him in a more deliberate, analytical, and collective decision-making system. [33] When national security officials of the Obama administration reflect on the best written policy work they encountered, the two standouts seem to have been the preparatory work done before the May 2011 Bin Laden raid into Pakistan and the policy support work on Iran that culminated in the Iran nuclear deal of 2015. But I think those episodes stand out so much to them because the fine quality of that written policy work was not the norm. [34] As illustrations see, for example, the studies published in Richard Neustadt, Report to JFK: Skybolt in Perspective (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1999); Richard Neustadt and Harvey Fineberg, The Swine Flu Affair: Decision Making on a Slippery Disease (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1978). [35] The 9/11 Commission Report: Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (New York: Norton, 2004), 91. I was the commission’s executive director. This particular passage of the report was drafted with the input of a former deputy director of the CIA and the former head of the CIA’s Center for the Study of Intelligence, both of whom were on our staff. During the 2000s and 2010s, reacting to problems in analytic tradecraft, exemplified by the Iraq weapons of mass destruction catastrophe, the intelligence community built up a National Intelligence University, operated by the Defense Intelligence Agency. The CIA has developed its Sherman Kent School of Intelligence Analysis. The substance of the CIA’s analytic training has improved, although some of those involved in these innovations believe the intelligence community needs to make further significant progress. [36] The ten steps are: 1) identify needs (what’s the problem?); 2) information phase (what exists?); 3) stakeholder phase (what’s wanted and who wants it?); 4) planning/operational research (what’s realistic and what limits us?); 5) hazard analysis (what’s safe and what can go wrong?); 6) specifications (what’s required?); 7) creative design (ideation); 8) conceptual design (potential solutions); 9) prototype design (create a version of the proposed design); and 10) verification (does it work and, if not, redesign). From the version of MIT’s course 6.902 taught in Fall 2012 by Blade Kotelly and Joel Schindall and available through MIT OpenCourseWare. [37] See, e.g., “An Introduction to Design Thinking: Process Guide,” Hasso Plattner Institute, accessed Aug. 26, 2019, https://dschool-old.stanford.edu/sandbox/groups/designresources/wiki/36873/attachments/74b3d/ModeGuideBOOTCAMP2010L.pdf. [38] “Field Manual 5-0: The Operations Process,” Department of the Army, March 2010; “ADP 5-0: The Operations Process,” Department of the Army, May 2012. The impetus for the “design” movement appears to have come from the Army’s Command and General Staff College and School for Advanced Military Studies, both at Fort Leavenworth. The quote and questions, paraphrased, are from Lt. Col. Celestino Perez, “A Practical Guide to Design,” Military Review, March-April 2011, 43–45, https://www.armyupress.army.mil/Portals/7/military-review/Archives/English/MilitaryReview_20110430_art008.pdf; see also Heather Wolters, “Army Design Methodology: Commander’s Resource,” Department of the Army, Feb. 2012, https://apps.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/a558054.pdf. [39] One template for policy design, derived from domestic policy experience, offers a five-level framework: high-level abstraction, program-policy linkages, program-level operationalization, program implementation linkages, and specific measures. Michael Howlett, Ishani Mukherjee, and Jeremy Rayner, “Designing Effective Programs,” in, Handbook of Public Administration, 3rd ed., ed. James Perry and Robert Christensen (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2015), Table 10.5, 196. See generally Michael Howlett, Ishani Mukherjee, and Jun Jie Woo, “From Tools to Toolkits in Policy Design Studies: The New Design Orientation Towards Policy Formulation Research,” Policy & Politics 43 no. 2 (April 2015): 291, 297-99, https://doi.org/10.1332/147084414X13992869118596. For more on this notion of “design 2.0” as a research agenda, see also Howlett and Mukherjee, “Policy Design: From Tools to Patches,” Canadian Public Administration 60 no. 1 (March 2017): 140–44, https://doi.org/10.1111/capa.12209. [40] See, e.g., Paul Goodwin and George Wright, Decision Analysis for Management Judgment, 5th ed. (New York: Wiley, 2014). [41] Earlier and different versions of this design framework were first tried out in Philip Zelikow, “Foreign Policy Engineering: From Theory to Practice and Back Again,” International Security 18 no. 4 (Spring 1994): 143–71, https://www.jstor.org/stable/2539180. This framework has been tried out in the classroom at Harvard and elsewhere. At Stanford, Jeremy Weinstein and Francis Fukuyama are developing an analogous framework in their teaching. [42] See, e.g., the illustrations catalogued in Atul Gawande, The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right (New York: Henry Holt, 2009); and Steven Johnson, Farsighted: How We Make the Decisions that Matter the Most (New York: Riverhead, 2018). [43] These four elements are a synthesis of methods suggested in Richard Neustadt and Ernest May, Thinking in Time: The Uses of History for Decision-Makers (New York: Macmillan, 1986), along with the way Neustadt, May, and I then developed and taught these ideas. See also Tetlock and Gardner, Superforecasting. I’m indebted to Michael Morell for discussions about the most basic elements of good assessment. See also the good discussion in Bodine, “Teaching Diplomacy as Process (Not Event),” 21–26. [44] Howlett, Mukherjee, and Rayner, “Designing Effective Programs,” 195. [45] For more on this emphasis on local, ground-level knowledge, see generally, written more in the context of domestic policymaking, Tara Dawson McGuinness and Anne-Marie Slaughter, “The New Practice of Public Problem Solving,” Stanford Social Innovation Review, Spring 2019, 27–33, https://ssir.org/articles/entry/the_new_practice_of_public_problem_solving. For some promising work on how to implement effective programs in the realm of state institution building, what they call “Problem Driven Iterative Adaptation,” see Matt Andrews, Lant Pritchett, and Michael Woolcock, Building State Capability: Evidence, Analysis, Action (New York: Oxford University Press, 2017). In more of a conflict/security context, see the pair of outstanding recent case study illustrations of analysis from the ground up, offered in Carter Malkasian, War Comes to Garmser: Thirty Years of Conflict on the Afghan Frontier (New York: Oxford University Press, 2016) (the paperback edition has a valuable afterword reflecting on more recent U.S. efforts); and Illusions of Victory: The Anbar Awakening and the Rise of the Islamic State (New York: Oxford University Press, 2017). [46] Allison, “Emergence of Schools of Public Policy,” 67; James Conant, My Several Lives (New York: Harper & Row, 1970). [47] Such placement trends led to a major lawsuit against Princeton, in which the members of the Robertson family that had originally donated the funds to enlarge the Woodrow Wilson School sued because the school no longer seemed to be using the gift to educate students for public service. Part of the 2008 settlement required Princeton to sponsor a $50 million foundation dedicated to that mission. Tamar Lewin, “Princeton Settles Money Battle Over Gift,” New York Times, Dec. 10, 2008, https://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/11/education/11princeton.html. [48] This depiction of the academic market failure draws in part from arguments developed by Jim Steinberg and Frank Gavin for the Carnegie International Policy Scholars program. The academic PhD programs suffer from another problem. Unlike the policy schools, which are often home to faculty from a variety of social science disciplines, and in some cases the natural sciences and engineering, PhD programs in international affairs are designed, taught, and administered in discipline-based departments, primarily political science. This arrangement may make sense for scholarly training in that discipline. But it is counterproductive for interdisciplinary policy training. That problem has been compounded by the long-term decline of area studies programs within political science departments. [49] The professional master’s degree programs, typically one to two years, focus on professional skills training for future practitioners. These degree programs are the core of most APPAM (Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management) and APSIA (Association of Professional Schools in International Affairs) schools. To the extent they have a canon, they too reflect the “microeconomic turn.” There are usually also courses that provide background information on international relations, current issues, and particular regions. As a nod to practical training, such schools frequently hire faculty as professors of practice and adjuncts who are current and former practitioners. They frequently draw from their experience to tell good policy stories and offer suggestive illustrations. This helps. But they then lack an established teachable canon for rigorous professional education. [50] There are some useful precedents in the “policy analysis exercises” used at some of the public policy schools. At Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School, Bodine describes policy task force/workshops as “more practical than the conventional academic approach and more conceptual, structural and historical than simulations or even case studies.” Each focuses on a single major ongoing policy issue. Students produce a set of detailed papers on each facet of it. Bodine, “Teaching Diplomacy as Process (Not Event),” 25. The CIA’s Kent School of Intelligence Analysis has had some success using an analogous approach in training intelligence analysts. [51] Stephen Platt, Imperial Twilight: The Opium War and the End of China’s Last Golden Age (New York: Knopf, 2018), 233 (following the work of William Rowe). ) [contents] => Array ( [title] => [contents] => ) ) [1] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 1379 [post_author] => 268 [post_date] => 2019-04-23 10:59:28 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-04-23 14:59:28 [post_content] =>

1. The “Lessons” of History, Theory, and Statecraft

By Galen Jackson In Suez Deconstructed, Philip Zelikow, the late Ernest May, and a team of scholars set out to provide students and foreign policy practitioners with a practical guide to navigating the complexities and uncertainties of international diplomacy. The book, Zelikow writes, is meant to serve “as a sort of simulator” to help readers grapple with the challenges that decision-makers confront in major crises.[1] The authors seek to accomplish this goal by focusing on the perspectives of all the major parties involved in the 1956 Suez crisis, which, in Zelikow’s words, “can offer a master class” for those seeking lessons for statecraft.[2] As the authors show in rich detail, the episode was enormously complex: The crisis took place in the context of the Cold War and directly involved both the United States and the Soviet Union, positioning Washington against its NATO allies Britain and France, as well as Israel, while aligning the Americans with Gamal Abdel Nasser’s largely antagonistic Egypt. Further complicating matters, the crisis was directly linked to regional conflicts in the Middle East, especially the Arab-Israeli dispute; occurred early on in the nuclear age; contributed greatly to the eventual collapse of European colonial empires; and forced policymakers to operate in conditions of deep uncertainty. The objective of the book, Zelikow writes, is to force readers to ask themselves: “What would I do if I had been a character in this story, with the reasonably available information?”[3] Readers, in short, are meant to come away from the book with deeper insights about the experience of crisis decision-making. Three Perspectives on Suez This whole approach is certainly both novel and creative, a point on which the three reviewers in this roundtable, Jordan Hirsch, Madison Schramm, and Danny Steed, are agreed. In their respective reviews, each contributor highlights the book’s unique structure. The book, Hirsch writes, “disorients” the reader by employing a “Rashomon-like structure.” All three reviewers also agree that the book achieves, at least in part, its goal of providing students and practitioners with a guide to foreign policy decision-making. They write that Zelikow’s “observation” chapters, in which he outlines and discusses what he refers to as each actor’s “value judgments,” “reality judgments,” and “action judgments,” offer the reader a valuable framework for thinking about how each side in the crisis viewed the situation. Finally, the reviewers agree that the book’s focus on the Suez crisis is especially helpful, given their belief that future conflicts are likely to be similar in nature. Thus, both Hirsch and Schramm specifically refer to the war in Syria and potential conflicts over the South China Sea as scenarios where Suez Deconstructed could provide a useful lens. Steed likewise writes that the book’s lessons will be particularly applicable “to the types of conflicts we have seen so far this century.” The reviewers, of course, found a few aspects of the book worthy of criticism and did not view its key takeaways exactly the same way. In her contribution, Schramm writes that Suez Deconstructed would have benefitted from more detailed discussion “of how intelligence and intelligence agencies affected each state’s decision-making,” as well as of the variation of views held by different policymakers within each country involved in the crisis. In her view, one of the book’s principal contributions is that it forces readers to consider “other states’ motivations in a crisis.” Applying that lesson to the current crisis in Syria, she writes, “Policymakers would do well to unpack not just the level of Iranian involvement in Syria, but why Iran is involved at all.” Although he believes the book provides “nothing new” to “serious historians searching for new insights into the crisis itself” because that is not its main focus, Steed argues that one of its “implicit” lessons is “that the impetus and momentum for large policy decisions often passes between political actors, much like how momentum shifts among and between teams in sports.” The book, he notes, suggests that France’s determination to confront Nasser illustrates this sort of dynamic, as Paris’ refusal to change course had a significant impact on British policy. For his part, Hirsch identifies two significant takeaways from the book. The first, he asserts, is that “policymakers are informed as much by honor and will as by interest.” Factors like prestige and status, he writes, played very key roles in shaping both French and British behavior in 1956. Second, Hirsch writes that Suez Deconstructed highlights “the centrality of relationships between statesmen, which drove events just as much as, if not more than, money, power, and ideas.” French-Israeli relations, he argues, were to a great extent a function of the emotional bond that existed between leaders on both sides. Similarly, he writes, the personal relationship between British Prime Minister Anthony Eden and the American secretary of state, John Foster Dulles, hamstrung the policies being pursued by the Western powers. Perhaps most importantly, Hirsch notes that many of the key decision-makers during the crisis were influenced to a considerable degree by their experiences from the 1930s and the road to World War II. “Together,” he writes, “these elements suggest that statecraft, particularly in a crisis, is not an entirely rational enterprise.” What Suez Deconstructed really shows, he therefore concludes, is “that statecraft is not only about impersonal forces, it’s about intangibles.” The Need for Guidance The reviewers rightly emphasize a number of valuable insights from Suez Deconstructed, but I see two key takeaways from the book that are somewhat different. The first has to do with methodology, and here the reviews by Steed and Hirsch provide helpful insights. Although, they observe, the book is extremely rich in historical detail and offers a new approach to learning about decision-making, there is something quite odd about it: Suez Deconstructed provides no explicit argument or set of arguments for readers. Zelikow and May, of course, are very much aware of the pitfalls involved in teasing out “the lessons of history.”[4] Indeed, Zelikow discusses this issue on the very first page of the book. “There are,” he writes, “many studies of statecraft. But few of them help readers understand how to do it, so the skills do not necessarily advance.” Although history can be of assistance, “knowing exactly why a bridge fell down does not make you a civil engineer.” As for “parables” and “axioms,” they tend “not to amount to much more than a warning: Be careful. Consult with others. Don’t build on a mud pile. And don’t appease Hitler.”[5] The authors’ decision to not lay out an explicit set of lessons based on their analysis of the Suez crisis is, then, intentional. The book’s approach, Zelikow writes, is meant to put the “burden on the reader to evaluate and compare these different viewpoints,” and deliberately avoids “inserting our own later judgments of whether we think the leaders were right or wrong.”[6] This sort of approach, however, is problematic. To be sure, the organizational strategy the authors employ and the depth of their analyses of each side’s perspectives are, respectively, innovative and instructive. But for a book whose main objective is to serve as a guide to the practice of statecraft, it is quite puzzling that readers are left without much guidance as to what one should take away from the whole Suez story. The job of scholars, of course, is to make sense of the complex issues they study, such that the key insights derived from their analysis are clearly and logically spelled out. As one historian writes, “the facts never just speak for themselves.” One of the analyst’s principal tasks, in fact, is to “make them ‘speak’ by drawing out their meaning and providing appropriate commentary—that is, by bringing out the handful of major points [she/he] want[s] the reader to note.”[7] Suez Deconstructed, however, avoids making these sorts of judgments. Even Zelikow’s insightful “observation” chapters, unfortunately, do not really leave readers with a sense of what the authors consider to be the key takeaways of each section. This, as Steed points out, is “a shame, because there is a clear need in the present era for wisdom to help guide decision-making.” Drawing from Theory In this respect, the authors might have capitalized more effectively on their innovative approach by integrating some of the methods that international relations scholars employ to study these sorts of issues into their analysis. Zelikow, however, explicitly rejects that way of studying statecraft. “Don’t look to political scientists to help,” he writes on the book’s first page. “They have better things to do.” Political scientists, he implies, are basically uninterested in making policy recommendations. “Policymakers,” he writes, “are to political scientists as insects are to entomologists. Only some of the more eccentric entomologists write how-to manuals to guide the ants.”[8] There is no doubt that political science has its share of problems, and it is true that at least one influential scholar has recently highlighted the field’s dwindling influence on national security policy.[9] Nevertheless, in saying that students and practitioners of statecraft have little or nothing to learn from political scientists, Zelikow perhaps goes too far. After all, when making decisions, policymakers are, in effect, relying on theoretical frameworks about how the world operates.[10] Any policy analysis, Marc Trachtenberg writes, must “speculate about what would happen if various alternative policies were adopted by drawing on a certain general sense for how things work.”[11] And it is precisely in the realm of theory and in the formulation of generalizable knowledge that political scientists and international relations scholars have the most to offer. Consider, for example, one of the main substantive themes in Suez Deconstructed: Israel’s concerns about a potential shift in the balance of power in the Middle East and its attendant motivations to launch a preventive war against Egypt before the latter grew into an unmanageable threat.[12] International relations scholars have long recognized the incentives states have to launch preventive conflicts and, consequently, have posited that the risk of war is greater under such conditions.[13] In that sense, Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion’s concerns about this issue are hardly surprising, and framing the matter in those terms would have helped readers more thoroughly understand the significance of this sort of factor. The same could be said for the way in which some decision-makers involved in the crisis interpreted the intelligence available to them. As Schramm points out, one of the reasons why people like Eden viewed flawed intelligence reports without skepticism was “because it confirmed what they wanted to believe.” Psychological biases, in other words, resulted in suboptimal decisions. This, again, is an area where political scientists have provided important insights, ones that could help elucidate these sorts of problems and underline their significance to readers seeking policy-relevant knowledge.[14] The point here is not to criticize the historical approach the book takes. In fact, that sort of approach can be extremely valuable. Instead, it is to highlight a missed opportunity for the authors to provide readers with more concrete policy takeaways. To be sure, there are real limits to what one can learn from studying something in a completely abstract way. In that sense, the book’s rich historical discussion very effectively offers readers the chance to consider major policy dilemmas in a manageable way. Indeed, this is one of the main reasons why scholars like Trachtenberg consider it so important “to do the sort of work that can draw theory and history together.”[15] But the analysis should not simply stop there. Readers need guidance, especially for a book like this one, when it comes to comprehending the significance of the events of 1956, as well as for evaluating each side’s decision-making. Incorporating some international relations theory could go a long way in this regard, by helping readers understand what to focus on in the substantive chapters, as well as what the main implications are for statecraft. The Primacy of Political Considerations With this in mind, I would argue that the principal takeaway from Suez Deconstructed is quite different from what the other reviewers describe and perhaps different from what the authors intended it to be as well. One of the core insights of international relations theorists, especially those of a realist bent, is that considerations relating to power oftentimes are at the heart of international politics.[16] Moreover, serious diplomatic problems can very easily arise when states ignore such considerations, or act contrary to what they would seem to prescribe. Indeed, individual states, as well as the international system as a whole, are likely to run into trouble when they fail to base their decisions on pragmatic, political calculations.[17] And what stands out most prominently from the account the authors give in Suez Deconstructed is the extent to which the key actors in the story behaved in ways that simply failed to support the achievement of their political goals. The result, rather unsurprisingly, was that most of them ultimately failed to achieve their objectives. In fact, most of them emerged from the crisis either weakened or in a less favorable position than they otherwise might have been. Take the case of Israel. To be sure, Jerusalem had an understandable concern about the Soviet Union’s major arms sale to Egypt in 1955 and the effects it might have on the regional balance of power. Indeed, for international relations theorists it is hardly surprising that Ben-Gurion was attracted to the notion of a preventive war that had the potential to topple Nasser’s regime. “This is the only chance,” he said, “that two not-so-small powers [Britain and France] will try to destroy Nasser, and we shall not stand alone while he grows stronger and conquers all the Arab world.”[18] But what Suez Deconstructed makes clear is that by late 1956, when the decision to go to war was reached, the situation appeared far less dire than it had the previous year. Within several months, Israeli intelligence reports had grown much less alarmist about the implications of the arms deal, and the threat no longer appeared so severe.[19] But Ben-Gurion was ultimately persuaded to go to war anyway. That decision, it seems, was made against his better judgment, for he clearly understood that Israel lacked a viable political strategy to deal with the consequences of the war. As Zelikow points out, Ben-Gurion felt that using force likely would not solve Israel’s security dilemmas and might very well put Jerusalem on the defensive in the realm of international opinion.[20] Likewise, Ben-Gurion understood the need to have American support for the sort of operation Israel was planning in conjunction with France and Britain. Indeed, he had initially directed his advisers to stipulate to Israel’s allies that the war had to be launched “with the knowledge of the United States.” He was, he said, “most of all… worried about America. America will force us to withdraw. America does not need to send military forces. America can say that she is breaking diplomatic relations, stopping Israeli fund raising, loan guarantees and more, she will consider what’s more important to her—we or the Arabs.”[21] Yet, even with this foresight, Ben-Gurion decided to go ahead anyway.[22] The results, of course, were just what he had predicted. Jerusalem, in short, ultimately paid the cost of ignoring power and political realities when Washington forced Israel to withdraw from the Sinai early in 1957.[23] The Israelis at least had other important strategic reasons for going to war. For example, they had an interest in strengthening their relationship with France, they recognized that Nasser might pose a threat to them in the longer term, and they had reason to believe that the French might prove more willing to assist them in developing a nuclear program if they went along with Paris’ plan. But the same cannot be said for France and Britain.[24] To be sure, Paris and London had a strategic interest in the Suez Canal, but the Egyptians were having no trouble operating it.[25] As for Nasser’s support for the Algerian rebels, French policy in that area was itself driven more by emotional considerations than by practical ones. In addition, neither country appeared to have a viable political plan in place for the period that followed the fighting. Finally, London and Paris repeatedly overstated the threat Nasser posed to their interests, comparing him to Hitler and Mussolini. Thus, U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower informed Eden at one point that, aside from the fact that attacking Egypt would only serve to strengthen Nasser, it seemed to him that France and Britain were far too concerned about the Egyptian leader. The Europeans, he said, were “making of Nasser a much more important figure than he is.”[26] These miscalculations, Suez Deconstructed suggests, seemed to stem primarily from the European powers’ obsession with status and prestige.[27] “Eden,” Jill Kastner and David Nickles write in the book, “was preoccupied with maintaining Britain’s great power status.”[28] The problem, according to one U.S. official, had a great deal to do with “Britain and France’s fear for their prestige.”[29] The connection between these sorts of feelings and the two countries’ overreactions to the nationalization of the canal seems clear. Nasser, Eden wrote to Eisenhower, simply could not be allowed to get away with it, otherwise “our influence and yours throughout the Middle East will… be irretrievably undermined.” The French, for their part, compared the move to Hitler’s remilitarization of the Rhineland.[30] Had they instead focused their attention more squarely on geopolitical concerns, their misguided attempt at regime change likely could have been avoided. The same criticism could be made of Nasser’s policies. The Eisenhower administration, it seems clear, was initially eager to cooperate with the Egyptian president. Indeed, the White House was even willing to support an Israeli cession of part of the Negev desert in exchange for an Egyptian-Israeli peace agreement.[31] But Nasser was simply unwilling to pursue a cooperative policy toward the United States, focused as he was on the “Arab Cold War” and his quest for leadership of the Arab world.[32] Thus, even after the Americans supported Egypt in the wake of the Israeli-French-British attack, Radio Cairo continued to criticize U.S. policy.[33] Given this sort of attitude, it is hardly surprising that Nasser ultimately got himself into trouble in 1967 when he provoked a war with Israel that proved a disaster for Egypt and the rest of the Arab world.[34] Even the Americans, who for the most part did seem to pursue a policy in line with their key political objectives, were not entirely free from blame.[35] “Everyone,” Zelikow observes, “seems to have misjudged the strength, speed, and depth of Washington’s opposition to the Israeli-French-British assault on Egypt.”[36] To be sure, by October 1956 the Eisenhower administration had tried to make clear that it would oppose such an operation, but the Americans were not entirely unambiguous in this respect. Although he subsequently altered his position, Dulles at one point went so far as to tell his French interlocutors: “If… after [a diplomatic] effort has been made, Nasser rejects the conditions presented to him, the basis would exist for a strong action which would be supported by many countries in the world and by the United States.”[37] And even after the war had erupted, Eisenhower implied that he objected more to the “very poor vehicle” the Israelis, French, and British had used “in bringing Nasser to terms” than he did to the spirit of the policy itself.[38] The administration, then, likely could have moved more energetically to head off a conflict in the Middle East. What all of this suggests, of course, is that decision-makers, rather than focusing their attention on what Hirsch calls “intangibles,” would be better served by basing their choices on strategic and political considerations. It surely was not in Israel’s interest to have a confrontation with the United States that resulted in a coerced withdrawal from the Sinai. Similarly, it was not in the interest of either France or Britain to ignore U.S. interests so blatantly at a time when Washington had considerable leverage to shape the behavior of both countries. Nor did it make sense for Nasser to alienate a superpower that appeared interested in developing a working relationship with him, for reasons that essentially had to do with prestige. All sides, in other words, would have been better served by pursuing policies more in line with realist principles. That, to my mind, is the real lesson to take away from Suez Deconstructed.   Galen Jackson is an assistant professor of political science at Williams College and an associate editor at TNSR. His book project deals with the Cold War diplomacy of the Arab-Israeli conflict from 1967 to 1979.  

2. A War for Our Time

By Jordan Chandler Hirsch The Suez War of 1956 is rarely included in the pantheon of crises featured in the study of statecraft. Seminal works on strategy, such as Yale historian Donald Kagan’s On the Origins of War, typically examine more famous episodes, like the outbreak of World War I or the Cuban Missile Crisis. Perhaps that is because Suez seems like a blip compared to other conflagrations of the era, such as the Soviet invasion of Hungary or the battle for Berlin. Seen as a “Middle East” war, Suez is sandwiched between the more “decisive” conflicts of 1948 and 1967. Suez also scrambled the traditional Cold War divisions that make for compelling study in other cases: At one point in the conflict, Washington aligned itself more closely with Moscow and Cairo than with London and Paris. In Suez Deconstructed, Philip Zelikow, a historian at the University of Virginia and former counselor of the Department of State, argues that students of strategy have as much to learn from Suez as its much-studied cousins. In making this case, Zelikow is joined by Ernest May, who was a venerated Harvard historian, and the Harvard Suez Team, a group of six scholars recruited to conduct research for the project. The authors began their work in the 1990s, but were interrupted, among other things, by Zelikow’s service in government and May’s death in 2009. Zelikow has returned to finish the book at an auspicious moment for examining the kind of war that Suez represents — a multi-power crisis, in which states of every size and strength play major roles. Neither a work of political science nor pure history, Suez Deconstructed instead aims to be a historically rooted how-to manual for statecraft. The book seeks to convey the experience of “masterminding solutions to giant international crises,” Zelikow writes, by providing “a sort of simulator that can help condition readers just a little more” before confronting their own crises.[39] It sets up that simulation by scrambling the storytelling. First, Suez Deconstructed divides the crisis into three phases: September 1955 through July 1956, July 1956 through October 1956, and October through November of that year. In doing so, the authors hope to show that “most large problems of statecraft are not one-act plays” but instead begin as one problem and then mutate into new ones. This was the case with Suez, which began with Egypt purchasing Soviet arms and which became a multipronged battle over an international waterway.[40] Second, the book proceeds through these phases not chronologically but by recounting the perspectives of each of the six participants: the United States, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, France, Israel, and Egypt. The goal — and the effect — is to deprive the reader of omniscience, creating a “lifelike” compartmentalization of knowledge and perspective.[41] Zelikow encourages readers to assess Suez by examining three kinds of judgments made by the statesmen during the crisis: value judgments (“What do we care about?”), reality judgments (“What is really going on?”), and action judgments (“What can we do about it?”).[42] Asking these questions, Zelikow argues, is the best means of evaluating the protagonists. Through this structure, Suez Deconstructed hopes to provide “a personal sense, even a checklist, of matters to consider” when confronting questions of statecraft.[43] The book begins this task by describing the world of 1956. The Cold War’s impermeable borders had not yet solidified, and the superpowers sought the favor of the so-called Third World. Among non-aligned nations, Cold War ideology mattered less than anti-colonialism. In the Middle East, its champion was Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser, who wielded influence by exploiting several festering regional disputes. He rhetorically — and, the French suspected, materially — supported the Algerian revolt against French rule. He competed with Iraq, Egypt’s pro-British and anti-communist rival. He threatened to destroy the State of Israel. And through Egypt ran the Suez Canal, which Europe depended on for oil. Egypt’s conflict with Israel precipitated the Suez crisis. In September 1955, Nasser struck a stunning and mammoth arms deal with the Soviet Union. The infusion of weaponry threatened Israel’s strategic superiority, undermined Iraq, and vaulted the Soviet Union into the Middle East. From that point forward, Zelikow argues, the question for all the countries in the crisis (aside from Egypt, of course) became “What to do next about Nasser?”[44] Israel responded with dread, while, Britain, France, and the United States alternated between confrontation and conciliation. Eventually, the United States abandoned Nasser, but he doubled down by nationalizing the Suez Canal. This was too much for France. Hoping to unseat Nasser to halt Egyptian aid to Algeria, it concocted a plan with Israel and, eventually, Britain for Israel to invade Egypt and for British and French troops to seize the Canal Zone on the pretense of separating Israeli and Egyptian forces. The attack began just before the upcoming U.S. presidential election and alongside a revolution in Hungary that triggered a Soviet invasion. The book highlights the Eisenhower administration’s anger at the tripartite plot. Despite having turned on Nasser, Eisenhower seethed at not having been told about the assault, bitterly opposed it, and threatened to ruin the British and French economies by withholding oil shipments. Throughout, Suez Deconstructed disorients. As the story crisscrosses from terror raids into Israel to covert summits in French villas, from Turtle Bay to the Suez Canal, names and places, thoughts and actions blur. Venerable policymakers scramble to comprehend the latest maneuvers as they struggle with the weight of history: Was Suez another Munich? Could Britain and France still project power abroad? Would a young Israel survive? The Lessons Are There if You Look for Them By utilizing its Rashomon-like structure, the book evokes the harrowing nature of high-stakes diplomacy: the incomplete intelligence, the uncertain signaling among allies and adversaries, and the sheer number of contingencies that leaders must account for in navigating a multifaceted confrontation. But aside from Zelikow’s brief observations, it leaves readers to contemplate these factors on their own. In that regard, Suez Deconstructed is less interactive study than study-by-fire. The approach conveys much about the atmospherics of decision-making, and Zelikow is right to prefer it to platitudes and aphorisms about strategy. But it may be difficult for readers to compose Zelikow’s checklist without further guidance. Even so, it is possible to extract several key lessons about statecraft. Chief among them is the extent to which policymakers are informed as much by honor and will as by interest. Britain and France, for example, ultimately joined forces to invade Egypt, but they did so for different reasons and with different degrees of resolve. As Zelikow notes, in the mid 1950s, France, recently beaten in Indochina, seemed beleaguered, while Britain “still seemed big,” boasting a “far-flung network of bases and influence.”[45] But appearances could deceive. France was led by men who “had been heroes of the resistance” during World War II and were determined to restore their country’s honor.[46] Outwardly strong, meanwhile, Britain suffered from a gnawing sense of exhaustion. This imbalance of morale would shape each nation’s actions during the crisis and contribute to Suez’s strange outcome. France’s Socialist-led coalition, Zelikow writes, was “driven by ideas and historical experience.”[47] It possessed a vision of restoring French pride and a dedication to defeating what it saw as “antimodern throwbacks” in Algeria backed by a Mussolini-like figure in Cairo.[48] It was thus undeterred when complications arose and “more creative in [its] policy designs.”[49] But because Washington, Moscow, and Cairo all judged France by its seeming lack of material power and its recent defeats alone, they underestimated its will.[50] British leaders, equally eager to topple Nasser and more capable of acting independently than the French, nevertheless struggled to overcome their nation’s fatigue. Initially behind the government’s desire to punish Nasser, the British public, as the book details, “[lost] its appetite for military adventure” as diplomacy commenced.[51] British Prime Minster Anthony Eden had long argued for the need to reconcile with anti-colonialism and with Nasser, its chief Middle Eastern apostle. The British public, tired of war, could not long support Eden’s reversal. London ultimately joined French-Israeli strikes not so much out of conviction but to save face — avoiding the embarrassment of abandoning the demands it made of Nasser. The second lesson that emerges is the centrality of relationships between statesmen, which drove events just as much as, if not more than, money, power, and ideas. One of the central drivers of the war, in fact, was the bond between French and Israeli statesmen. France’s Socialist leaders had all fought in the French Resistance during World War II. They sympathized with Israel, feeling morally obligated to prevent another massacre of the Jewish people and, as one author in the book describes, viewing Israel’s struggle “as a sort of sequel” to the fight against fascism.[52] The Israelis, many of whom were former guerilla fighters themselves, easily related to the French and appreciated their support. Paris and Jerusalem grew closer for practical reasons as well: France sought Israel’s aid in addressing the Algerian revolt. But the relationship extended beyond material interest. As one chapter relates, during French-Israeli negotiations regarding the attack on Egypt, “there was an emotional connection between [the French and Israeli leaders] that documents do not easily capture.”[53] The affection between French and Israeli officials repeatedly propelled the war planning forward. If intimate ties catalyzed the invasion of Egypt, so, too, did combustible ones — none more so than the rancor between Eden and Dulles. Eden detested Dulles as moralistic, legalistic, and tedious (as related in Suez Deconstructed, he once described Dulles with the quip, “Dull, Duller, Dulles”).[54] Their mutual disregard plagued U.S.-British cooperation. At key moments, Eden believed, Dulles would intervene with a maladroit statement that would harm planning or undermine British leverage. In early October 1956, for example, Dulles stated that there were “no teeth” to the diplomatic plan that the powers had been devising and that when it came to issues of “so-called colonialism,” the United States would “play a somewhat independent role.”[55] For Eden, feeling isolated, this statement “was in some ways the final blow,” spurring him to join the French-Israeli initiative.[56] The statesmen of the Suez Crisis were haunted by history as much as they were guided by pride and personality — another striking theme that surfaces in Suez Deconstructed. Zelikow begins his overview of the world in 1956 by stating that “[t]hey were a wartime generation,” nations that had “lived through conclusive, cataclysmic wars, some more than one.”[57] Those experiences permeated their approaches to the crisis. French and British leaders could not help but see Nasser as a 1930s potentate. Indeed, after the crisis, Guy Mollet, the French prime minister in 1956, compared Suez to “Algeria, Spain, and Munich.”[58] As one author in the book explains, “‘Algeria’” meant Nasser’s role in fomenting the Algerian revolt. ‘Spain’ represented the parallel between Israel and the beleaguered Spanish Republic during the Spanish Civil War of the 1930s,” which was destroyed as the French government did nothing, and “‘Munich’” represented the failure of the democracies to stop dictators in time.”[59] Although the British — policymakers, the press, and the public — did not share the Algerian and Spanish analogies, they, too, saw in Suez “the lesson of World War II: appeasement of dictators led to more demands and, eventually, to war.”[60] For Israel, Nasser’s threat to drive the Jews into the sea was especially haunting. And for Nasser, Dulles’ brusque revocation of the offer to finance the Aswan Dam was yet more colonial degradation. Suez Deconstructed offers a vivid sense of how difficult it is for policymakers to step back from their own experiences, let alone embody the perspectives of their counterparts. It is a rare quality in world leaders to be able to make historical analogies without fully embracing them, thereby becoming trapped. Applying History’s Lessons to Today Together, these elements suggest that statecraft, particularly in a crisis, is not an entirely rational pursuit. This is a vital lesson for today’s leaders. For much of the past 70 years, the wars most prominent in the American imagination have been nuclear standoffs and insurgent street fights. The wars of the coming decades, however, are likely to look more like Suez than Berlin or Iraq. They will likely be multi-state conflicts, in which states of every size and strength play major roles. These contests will be byzantine. Like Suez, they will be local skirmishes and global crises simultaneously. They will feature webs of overlapping rivalries and alliances (and rivalries within alliances), strategic and ideological considerations at multiple levels, and high-stakes signaling amid confusion and disinformation. Such conflicts have already begun to emerge, and policymakers have largely failed to adjust. In Syria, for example, two great powers (the United States and Russia) and three regional powers (Israel, Iran, and Turkey), as well as a paramilitary terrorist organization, Hezbollah, have vied for influence in the midst of a failed state, wracked by civil war, with myriad factions and a lingering Islamic caliphate. In East Asia, meanwhile, claims over islands in the South China Sea could spark a multi-power war in a global economic hinge point — one that could quickly draw in the United States. These conflicts have not become worldwide conflagrations (despite, in the case of Syria, the unimaginable toll on Syrians themselves). But in a time of geopolitical flux, when nations probe wobbly balances and crumbling power hierarchies, the relevance of Suez — a crisis that occurred before the Cold War’s ossification, and in many ways was caused by the uncertainties of the pre-Berlin-Wall world — becomes all too apparent. To navigate this environment, policymakers will need to grapple with everything from budgetary constraints to new forms of power projection. But at bottom, they will need to recall the elements that have long moved leaders and nations, but have recently been forgotten: pride and emotion, personality and temperament, context and history. In other words, they will need to understand that statecraft is not only about impersonal forces — it’s about intangibles. The Suez crisis is an ideal history from which to glean that understanding, and Suez Deconstructed gives readers an enlightening and engrossing opportunity to gain it before facing a crisis of their own.   Jordan Chandler Hirsch practices law in Washington, D.C. He was formerly a Next Generation National Security Fellow at the Center for a New American Security and a staff editor at Foreign Affairs.  

3. Suez Deconstructed: Muddying the Waters to Clarify Decision-Making

By Madison Schramm For over sixty years, scholars have investigated the political crisis that erupted in the wake of Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser’s nationalization of the Suez Canal. These works have tended to focus on discrete elements of the conflict, emphasizing, for example, the logic of economic diplomacy,[61] British politics,[62] or Israeli border security.[63] In the recently published Suez Deconstructed: An Interactive Study in Crisis, War, and Peacemaking, Phillip Zelikow, Ernest May, and the Harvard Suez Team provide an important service to current and future policymakers by illuminating not just what to think about a given crisis, but how to think in a crisis. The United States will face a number of foreign policy challenges in the years ahead, including the rise of transnational right-wing populism, the international (and domestic) consequences of climate change, and ending America’s “endless” wars while avoiding leaving behind dangerous power vacuums. Analysts and policymakers alike would do well to follow the lessons that this book has to offer: namely to rigorously analyze the motivations and priorities of one’s opponents and partners, and to be wary of simple parables. Suez Deconstructed has somewhat of an unorthodox organization. Designed as a teaching tool to assist students and policymakers, the text is structured to facilitate the careful assessment of state decision-making. The book is divided into three sections: The first section examines how the leaders from each of the involved countries in the Suez Canal crisis perceived Nasser prior to nationalization of the canal. The second section discusses how decision-makers in each capital responded to Nasser’s nationalization of the canal. The final section explores what actions decision-makers took leading up to and following Israel, Britain, and France’s invasion of Egypt. The authors draw from memoirs, newspaper articles, and primary source material from the Soviet Union, Israel, France, Britain, the United States, and Egypt. In the introduction, Zelikow and his co-authors ask readers to remain cognizant of three questions while appraising each state’s decision-making throughout the crisis: First, to consider “value judgments,” or how states characterized the imminent challenges they faced; second, to evaluate “reality judgments,” or how policymakers from each country weighed the facts on the ground; and lastly, to examine how each state designed its policies and strategies. Following each section, Zelikow offers observations organized around these three questions. This structure forces readers to grapple with the complexities of crisis decision-making and allows the authors to convincingly challenge the notion that the outcome of the crisis was, at any given point, a foregone conclusion. The Optics of a Crisis The organization of Suez Deconstructed provides an excellent template for assessing state decision-making. Through this, the authors succeed in illustrating the complexity of the crisis. Like most conflicts, the Suez Crisis is not a simple tale. It is precisely for this reason that the lessons from the text are so rich. By assessing each state individually, the authors provide substantial evidence that the actors involved had different interests and threat hierarchies. For example, while both U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower and Russian leader Nikita Khrushchev were consumed by the Cold War, only the United States was preoccupied with the Israeli-Arab conflict and Egyptian politics. French perceptions were unduly motivated by the Algerian revolt, while the British were motivated by their waning influence in the Middle East. Egyptian leaders were concerned about the future leadership of the Middle East and their own economic development, while Israel was preoccupied with its border security. In descriptions of international conflict, analysts frequently treat complex, multi-player conflicts as dyadic — examining only two actors, despite the fact that more states were critical to determining the contours of decision-making. However, by considering all parties to the Suez Crisis individually, Zelikow, May, and the Harvard Suez team illustrate the precarious nature of foreign policy decision-making. For example, the British decision to go through with Operation Musketeer — the codename for the planned British-French invasion — cannot be divorced from Britain’s coordination with the French and Israeli governments and their respective perceptions of Nasser. Although the parsimony of analyzing a crisis from one vantage point or level of analysis can be enticing, the authors illuminate how the bipolar nature of the Cold War, the personalities of individual policymakers, and domestic politics all affected different states at different times throughout the crisis. Historical narratives often present a simple sequence of events with a mono-causal explanation. However, as the authors of Suez Deconstructed illustrate by approaching the crisis from multiple vantage points, crises are multi-causal and the perceptions of individual actors rarely converge neatly. U.S. foreign policy decision-makers can particularly benefit from this lesson. Consider the current crisis in the South China Sea: The focus tends to be on U.S. and Chinese foreign policy. However, this ends up marginalizing the roles of other claimant and non-claimant states, ultimately resulting in a narrow interpretation of the conflict with less predictive leverage for policymakers. Think, for example, how the 2016 election of Rodrigo Duterte in the Philippines changed the balance of power in the region. With the election of Duterte, the United States lost the Philippines as a close partner in pushing back against China’s nine-dash line. Understanding how Duterte and (and other leaders in the region) view the disputed islands will be essential to determining the best path forward for U.S. foreign policy in the region. The authors also challenge some of the conventional wisdom regarding the crisis itself. For example, previous analyses often point to the Czech Arms Deal as the point at which U.S. and British opinion turned against Nasser. However, the arms deal was actually a key factor in convincing Eisenhower and British Prime Minister Anthony Eden to support financing of the Aswan Dam project. In Suez Deconstructed, the more critical turning point for the United States seems to have been the failure of talks between Nasser and Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion, while for the British is was the summary firing of the commander of the Arab Legion in Jordan, John Glubb. Another piece of conventional wisdom the authors challenge is the conception that Eden’s illness can fully account for his decision-making in 1956. His botched gall bladder surgery and associated illness is frequently used as an explanation for his hawkishness during the crisis. As the authors point out, however, both U.S. Secretary of State John Foster Dulles and Eisenhower were hospitalized at different points throughout the crisis as well, and yet there is no evidence that their illnesses increased their support for coercive action in Egypt.[64] Furthermore, other important actors, like British treasury secretary, Harold Macmillan, at least initially largely agreed with Eden’s assessments, challenging the claim that Eden’s illness can independently explain his decision-making. Conclusion While Suez Deconstructed ably presents the difficulties that decision-makers face in a crisis and challenges reductionist accounts of history, the book left a few interesting topics under-explored, no doubt due to the already substantial breadth of the volume. First, the book lacked a sufficient discussion of how intelligence and intelligence agencies affected each state’s decision-making. How did the analyses from MI6 and the CIA inform British and American thinking? There were important distinctions between the agencies with regard to their assessments of Nasser and Egypt as well as their individual organizational capacities. While the CIA and American officials had befriended the Free Officers, the group within the Egyptian military that led the coup in 1952, the British were still disadvantaged by their reliance on the Wafd party, a popular and powerful group under the monarchy. During the Suez crisis, Eden widely shared the intelligence from Lucky Break, claiming Nasser had developed deep ties with the Soviets. This seemed to confirm his prior suspicions and support his chosen course of action to attack the canal. However, U.S. intelligence was more measured regarding the threat of Nasser and warned that direct Soviet involvement, rather than being a foregone conclusion, would result only if military action were taken against Nasser. While the authors note in the conclusion that “Part of it has to do with the peculiar influence that British intelligence exerted in that year, and not in a helpful way,”[66] this topic deserved more concerted investigation. What can this teach us about the influence of intelligence during a crisis? Second, there was more to explore regarding the variation in threat assessment within each state. The American and British ambassadors to Egypt, for example, seemed to take a much more moderated tone than leaders within the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff and the British Ministry of Defense. Although his concerns were dismissed by many in Washington, U.S. Ambassador to Egypt Henry Byroade explicitly challenged plans for Operation OMEGA — a plan developed under Eisenhower in the spring of 1956 to erode Nasser’s power and build up support for King Saud in Saudi Arabia as a new leader in the Middle East. Similarly, British Ambassador to Egypt Sir Humphrey Trevelyan was much more moderate in his assessments of Nasser than government officials in London, and it seems he was not immediately informed of British military planning. How did the sidelining of these ambassadors’ voices affect American and British decision-making during the crisis? Despite some of these shortcomings, however, Suez Deconstructed adds depth and perspective to existing accounts of the 1956 crisis. Scholars and policymakers alike will benefit from the insights of the text, namely that policymakers ought to rigorously assess the motivations and goals of all states involved in a crisis and be wary of simplistic narratives. Ultimately, Suez Deconstructed illustrates the challenges of decision-making and the complexities of international crises, providing important lessons for contemporary U.S. foreign policymakers.   Madison Schramm is a Ph.D. candidate in international relations at Georgetown University and the Hillary Rodham Clinton Research Fellow at the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace, and Security.  

4. Deconstructing History’s Lessons for Statecraft

By Danny Steed The Suez Crisis holds quite a special place in U.K. history, and not a happy one at that. It was, more than any other country, Britain’s failure — so much so that it can be very easy to forget the role that other countries played in a crisis that continues to be rich in lessons for current and future policymakers. The crisis itself has been described in numerous ways over the decades: Chester Cooper, former CIA officer and diplomat, labelled it “The Lion’s Last Roar,”[67] hinting at the end of British imperial might. From the Egyptian point of view, journalist Mohamed Heikal called the crisis, “Cutting the Lion’s Tail,”[68] — a clear bias that it was less the result of British failure and more of Egyptian success under the leadership of Col. Gamal Abdul Nasser. For others, “The less said about Suez the better,”[69] such has its ghost haunted political memory in a way that is only rivalled by the 2003 Iraq War. With such positions firmly ingrained in the historiography of Suez, one can rightly ask what is there that is new to add? Philip Zelikow, the late Ernest May, and the Harvard Suez Team offer their recent book, Suez Deconstructed, which, in this author’s opinion, certainly proves American-Israeli historian Michael Oren’s view that Suez is a “crisis for all seasons”[70] from which observers are certain to draw lessons on all sides. Adopting Oren’s view implicitly, Zelikow and his co-authors seek to offer an historical work with a new objective: Instead of trying to simply unearth new historical insights into the crisis, the work is offered as a way to generate lessons on statecraft itself. As Zelikow notes in his introductory remarks, “There are many studies of statecraft. But few of them help readers understand how to do it…”[71] In order to try to do just that, the book combines the efforts of the Harvard Suez Team,[72] whose scholars offer their own country-specific chapters on the six key players involved in the crisis — Britain, Egypt, France, Israel, the United States, and the Soviet Union — highlighting each country’s view of events. Typically, such an attempt would be presented in the style of an edited volume, but this work differs because the structure is driven by Zelikow’s guiding hand. The book is split into three acts, each of which poses a central question: What to do about Nasser’s Egypt? What to do about the crisis? And what to do about the war? The overall analytic underpinning distinguishes between “value judgements,” “reality judgements,” and “action judgements,” which each of the six actors must consider. This matrix is put forward in order to draw lessons about statecraft from the leaders who were making decisions at the time. The traditional weakness that afflicts most volumes with numerous contributors is variance in quality and consistency of direction throughout. This, however, does not afflict Suez Deconstructed, whose direction and consistency must be commended. One point of criticism to note is that serious historians searching for new insights into the crisis itself will be disappointed. Ultimately, there is nothing new in the historical detail on offer, and those with a familiarity with the events of Suez will be able to digest its content very quickly. Having said this, the work will hold strong appeal for those without such prior grounding, as a very useful “one-stop-shop” to the crisis whose strength lies in its inclusivity of all players involved. This, no doubt, is the core target: not only students who are searching for broader guidance and lessons to take on their way to careers as practitioners but, one also hopes, for established practitioners (be they in military or political service) who are continuing their studies. Dissecting History Given this objective, the areas of the book with the most to offer are Zelikow’s “observation chapters” between each section, as these serve to weave the historical narrative into the broader lessons that the authors are seeking to extract from this historical episode. In so doing, Zelikow succeeds, most of all, in showing readers how no country’s policy position at Suez was fixed and that the journey each participant took was, in reality, a very messy affair with numerous changes throughout. Moscow was employing its “opportunistic strategy.” Israel was “riveted to [its] local problems,” while Britain was concerned less with the global Cold War than with its own “regional influence in the Middle East,” and the French were preoccupied with the Algerian revolt. The Egyptians had clear concerns but unclear options, and Washington was alone in needing to “juggle concerns about all three levels of conflict.”[73] Nobody, therefore, arrived at the Suez Crisis in a political vacuum. And although this is a well-established fact in the Suez historiography, it could have been emphasized more explicitly as a broader overarching lesson for statecraft, given that the context these actors were already operating in greatly informed the value judgements that were then taken into the crisis itself. Zelikow’s transitional chapters are valuable in revealing how each country’s value judgements greatly informed its belief about what courses of action were available and, consequently, what action judgements it then reached. Britain, which had the most skin in the game, as it were, was the country most concerned and arguably the most predictable in its (eventual) response in resorting to the use of force against Egypt. American attitudes are rightly highlighted as seeming “to fluctuate, from person to person or one day to the next.”[74] This caused much consternation in London, but those changeable attitudes did evolve into a measured view against the use of force by President Dwight Eisenhower that Britain was ultimately at great fault for ignoring by opening hostilities against Egypt. One particular observation that Zelikow makes is of note: the French push to use force. So often, the historiography on the Suez Crisis is focused on the collusion — the conspiracy between Britain, France, and Israel to find a pretext to invade Egypt — particularly the British government’s role therein because of its ardent denials after the fact. Thus, it is often overlooked that in the latter stages of the crisis it was the French who became the driving impetus for the use of force against Egypt. Zelikow’s view on this matter, informed greatly by Charles Cogan’s chapters on Paris, judges the French as being “more creative in their policy designs.”[75] Here, the French are rightly credited in that their policy design more accurately appealed to London’s desires to use force against Egypt while anticipating Israeli concerns about having an emboldened Egypt on its doorstep at the same time. This, in turn, identifies another lesson for statecraft that seems left implicit at this stage of the book: that the impetus and momentum for large policy decisions often passes between political actors, much like how momentum shifts among and between teams in sports. At the moment when Britain was seriously contemplating a humiliating reversal on the diplomatic front, “it is the French who throw Eden a lifeline of political and military opportunity.”[76] The final observations that Zelikow makes — “What to do about the war?” — are instructive in illustrating which countries were the most instrumental in halting the crisis, America being the most paramount. Zelikow is quite right that everyone “seems to have misjudged the strength, speed, and depth of Washington’s opposition” to the use of force.[77] This included Nasser, who, although ultimately anticipating the British resort to force, certainly did not plan for Eisenhower to rescue him “from a gamble that could have turned out so catastrophically”[78] for his regime, as it had for his forces. The French blamed British military lethargy and over-caution for the failure to re-secure the Suez Canal and depose Nasser every bit as much as they did American political opposition, whereas Moscow and Cairo, of course, both tried to claim that it was their curbing of imperialist ambitions that was the ultimate reason for the cessation of hostilities — not the far more decisive role of American displeasure with its allies’ actions. While French criticism of British military performance was certainly valid, it was the steadfast refusal of America to condone the use of force that was the decisive factor in halting the crisis. Lessons Worth Learning Suez Deconstructed is a fine work that does not shy away from attempting a new approach to analysing a much-discussed moment of intense geopolitical contest in order to try and identify broader lessons in statecraft for current or future policymakers. In this, the book succeeds but, in this reviewer’s opinion, only implicitly, as readers are left to categorize those lessons for themselves. While the book makes clear the lessons learned by the countries involved — for example, the French learned that its government must retain as much independence for its military as possible[79] — the broader lessons for statecraft itself are curiously not made explicit, even in Zelikow’s otherwise superb observational chapters. That’s a shame, because there is clear need in the present era for wisdom to help guide decision-making, particularly for time-poor leaders who operate in ever faster cycles of events, dominated by information flows that are seen as increasingly unreliable and permeated with “fake” news. Scholarship that categorizes and explicitly outlines advice for policymakers is sorely needed, yet readers will need to extract some of these lessons from Suez Deconstructed for themselves, including that context in the political world is always multi-dimensional, with each country bringing its own unique viewpoint to the table and trying to shape one another’s when attempting to influence the policy agenda. Despite the lack of explicit articulation, Zelikow’s three levels of conflict remain effective in ensuring readers empathize with which level mattered more to which participant. For those seeking careers in diplomacy or as analysts, this kind of empathetic reasoning will serve as a key professional skill. Other lessons include the important role that context plays in driving the value judgements an actor makes in approaching any political event or crisis, the influence of those value judgements in conditioning an actor’s belief in which courses of action are available and possible, that personal relationships between leaders matter every bit as much — indeed perhaps even more so — than established national ones (as seen in the fluctuating relationship between the Eden and Eisenhower governments, in particular), that calculating and anticipating the desires and reactions of other actors is a most uncertain pursuit based, at best, on shaky information, and that policy momentum can easily pass between nations (as evidenced by Britain’s loss of impetus for the use of force that was then taken up by the French). These lessons highlight a relevant broader lesson that certainly applies to the types of conflicts we have seen so far this century: those that feature the lack of control of any one actor on events, especially as those events proceed. While a nation may initiate a policy course of action (including the use of force), the dynamics of events and the effects of actors with their own contexts and policy desires shapes a future reality that policymakers did not intend. For those in positions of authority, it is important to remember that the policy outcome will rarely match with the ideal one was striving for in the first place. Policy positions will need to adapt to circumstances, and policymakers will need to exercise understanding about what other actors — especially allies — desire. Suez Deconstructed certainly merits a place on any course’s reading list for the Suez Crisis because of its efforts to draw broader lessons of statecraft, even if imperfectly achieved. The real difficulty that the book highlights is the meta-challenge for history as a discipline itself, namely, the sheer difficulty of robustly unlocking and categorizing the lessons of historical episodes for future practitioners to learn from. In this, Zelikow rightly notes that Suez becomes such an instructive study “because it is so humbling,”[80] and, for Suez in particular, one is reminded that the crisis’ biggest truism is, in fact, the biggest truth of all: that Suez really is, in the words of Kipling, “No End of a Lesson.”   Dr. Danny Steed, formerly lecturer in strategy and defence at the University of Exeter, is now head of strategy at ReSolve Cyber, a specialist cyber security consultancy. His next book, The Politics and Technology of Cyberspace, will be published by Routledge in 2019.  

5. Author Response: Lessons Learned

By Philip Zelikow This is an excellent roundtable. All the reviewers grasped, understood, and welcomed the innovation in the research design, and everyone appeared to have profited from it. Galen Jackson, who introduced the roundtable, struggled with my early remarks about the similarity of international relations (IR) theory to entomology in relation to the practical advice they give to the objects of their study. Entomology, as well as IR theory, are perfectly respectable scientific pursuits. Jackson makes the IR theorists’ argument that policymakers act on theories, usually implicit, about the world. By adducing, articulating, and testing such theories, IR theorists argue that they thereby can improve the quality of policymakers’ thought, assuming the policymakers attend to the scientific findings. People do act on theories about people and the world.  Usually they carry a number of such theories in their head simultaneously, most of which often have some measure of validity under certain circumstances. Few such theories are invariably true. The practical problems in application thus become apparent. It is these practical problems that play out in each individual’s interactive judgments assessing reality, juggling values, and evaluating possible actions. There are more interactions in each individual’s government which, in turn, interact with such compound judgments in the other governments involved. This is what my co-authors and I attempted to break down and illuminate in Suez Deconstructed. There can be value in slapping theoretical labels on some of the judgments in these complex mixtures, to say — as Jackson does — that here the Israelis are worried about a changing power situation (though this too fluctuates) or there we see a known psychological pattern. If that helps a theoretically conversant reader follow some facets of the story, all the better. But if we authors inserted these hindsight theoretical labels on each of the many varieties of behavior exhibited in this study, the net effect would make them less lifelike. The first risk is that we would typecast behavior in ways that do not fit the multi-causal reality. The second risk is to invite the associated generalizations about the implications of the theorized behavior, generalizations that might not be valid in that case. This combination of selective typecasting, plus their associated generalizations, can be deadly (sometimes literally). It is a pathology occasionally exhibited by some of the characters in our story. The entomologists may wish to notice and extract such data for their disciplinary purpose. But such labeling would detract from our goal, which was to heighten philosophical realism and practical insight. In the other reviews, I was only puzzled in reading Danny Steed’s statement that the book added nothing new to historical knowledge about the Suez crisis (a statement which Jackson quotes in his overview). The actual substance of the review essays by both Jordan Hirsch and Madison Schramm seem to repeatedly belie that assertion — it is even belied somewhat in Steed’s own piece. One such contribution, that at least one reviewer appears to have misunderstood, is my argument that Israel was a big winner — not a loser — in the crisis. I thought that came through in the book, prefigured by a remarkable statement David Ben-Gurion made to the Israeli cabinet. Part of the irony of Israel’s gain is that their 10 precious years of border security and relative peace came, in part, from the innovative creation of the U.N. Emergency Force — which was not Israel’s idea at all. In fact, the book’s little creation story of this force makes another small contribution. But it is my fault I did not attempt to list and spotlight these and the many other ways my co-authors and I thought we were adding to the historical understanding of the Suez Canal crisis. So many facets of this seemed to emerge from our approach, some relatively subtle but vital. Reassuringly, the reviewers actually and frequently display their grasp of many such points. That is a mark not only of their conscientious engagement with the book — it is also, in turn, a testament to the selection and recruitment of the reviewers by TNSR. The striking takeaway from the essays in this roundtable is the reviewers’ common hunger — really an almost desperate hunger — for me to spell out more of the lessons, to distill and feed readers the axioms of good statecraft. As if that’s really how people learn it. What’s happily evident to me, from the reviews, is how much these particular readers have already learned from their engagement with the book, working through the details of the situations, experiences, and varied perspectives. That is usually how people learn in real life.   Philip Zelikow holds chairs in history and in governance, both at the University of Virginia. His scholarship focuses on critical episodes in American and world history. He has served at all levels of American government, including policy work in the five administrations from Reagan through Obama.    [post_title] => Book Review Roundtable: What to Make of the Suez Canal Crisis [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => book-review-roundtable-what-to-make-of-the-suez-canal-crisis [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-07-03 06:26:05 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-07-03 10:26:05 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://tnsr.org/?post_type=roundtable&p=1379 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => roundtable [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [lead] => What lessons does the Suez Canal crisis hold for policymakers today? We assembled a roundtable to review the recently published book "Suez Deconstructed" to tackle that question. [pubinfo] => [issue] => [quotes] => [style] => roundtable [type] => Book [style_label] => Roundtable [download] => Array ( [title] => PDF Download [file] => 1389 ) [authors] => Array ( [0] => 268 [1] => 269 [2] => 270 [3] => 102 ) [endnotes] => Array ( [title] => Endnotes [endnotes] => [1] Philip Zelikow et al., Suez Deconstructed: An Interactive Study in Crisis, War, and Peacemaking (Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution, 2018), 2. [2] Zelikow et al., Suez Deconstructed, 2. [3] Zelikow et al., Suez Deconstructed, 7. [4] May, in fact, has co-authored an entire book on the matter. See Richard E. Neustadt and Ernest R. May, Thinking in Time: The Uses of History for Decision Makers (New York: Free Press, 1986). [5] Zelikow et al., Suez Deconstructed, 1. [6] Zelikow et al., Suez Deconstructed, 124. [7] Marc Trachtenberg, The Craft of International History: A Guide to Method (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2006), 190. [8] Zelikow et al., Suez Deconstructed, 1. [9] Michael C. Desch, Cult of the Irrelevant: The Waning Influence of Social Science on National Security (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2019). [10] Incidentally, historians, whether consciously or not, must do the same thing. This is a major theme in Trachtenberg, The Craft of International History, 30–50. [11] Marc Trachtenberg, “The Problem of International Order and How to Think About It,” The Monist 89, no. 2 (2006), 222, https://www.jstor.org/stable/27903976. [12] For example, see Zelikow et al., Suez Deconstructed, 27, 45–48, 236–238. [13] For example, see Jack S. Levy, “Declining Power and the Preventive Motivation for War,” World Politics 40, no. 1 (October 1987), 82–107, https://doi.org/10.2307/2010195; Stephen Van Evera, Causes of War: Power and the Roots of Conflict (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1999), 73–104; Dale C. Copeland, The Origins of Major War (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2000). [14] For examples of important political science literature in this area, see Robert Jervis, Perception and Misperception in International Politics (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1976); Deborah Welch Larson, Origins of Containment: A Psychological Explanation (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1985). [15] Trachtenberg, The Craft of International History, 44. [16] For important works by realist scholars, see for example Kenneth N. Waltz, Theory of International Politics (Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley, 1979); John J. Mearsheimer, The Tragedy of Great Power Politics (New York: W.W. Norton, 2001). [17] Marc Trachtenberg, “The Question of Realism: A Historian’s View,” Security Studies 13, no. 1 (Fall 2003), 156–94. [18] Quoted in Zelikow et al., Suez Deconstructed, 236. [19] Zelikow et al., Suez Deconstructed, 127, 332 n. 8. [20] Zelikow et al., Suez Deconstructed, 48, 196. [21] Zelikow et al., Suez Deconstructed, 200, 239. [22] According to Zelikow, Ben-Gurion seems to have been carried away by the thought of “restructuring the Middle East…. Visions of sugar plums danced in his head.” Zelikow et al., Suez Deconstructed, 233. [23] Another way to demonstrate the weakness in Israeli policy in 1956 is to compare it with Israel’s stance in 1967, which resulted in a quite different American reaction. As one U.S. official put it roughly a year later, “[T]he situation in 1967 was different from that in 1957. The rights and wrongs were clearer in 1957 and the failure of the arrangements negotiated at that time were a major reason for our present difficulties.” See Telegram from the Department of State to the Embassy in Jordan, August 7, 1968, in FRUS, 1964-1968, Vol. 20: Arab-Israeli Dispute, 1967-1968 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 2001), 453. [24] On French-Israeli nuclear cooperation and its relationship to the Suez crisis, see Zelikow et al., Suez Deconstructed, 237, 265; Avner Cohen, Israel and the Bomb (New York: Columbia University Press, 1998), 49–50, 52–60. [25] In any case, the lease on the canal was set to expire in 1968. Moreover, Nasser had offered to indemnify the Europeans for the nationalization. [26] Quoted in Zelikow, Suez Deconstructed, 144. [27] Incidentally, this is another area where incorporating some concepts from international relations theory might have helped this message resonate with readers. On status and prestige, see for example Joslyn Barnhart, “Status Competition and Territorial Aggression: Evidence from the Scramble for Africa,” Security Studies 25, no. 3 (2016), 385–419, https://doi.org/10.1080/09636412.2016.1195620; Deborah Welch Larson and Alexei Shevchenko, “Status Seekers: Chinese and Russian Responses to U.S. Primacy,” International Security 34, no. 4 (Spring 2010), 63–95, https://doi.org/10.1162/isec.2010.34.4.63. [28] Zelikow et al., Suez Deconstructed, 71. [29] Zelikow et al., Suez Deconstructed, 161. [30] Zelikow et al., Suez Deconstructed, 207. [31] Zelikow et al., Suez Deconstructed,  26–27. The administration was also initially willing to finance the Aswan Dam. [32] The classic work on this issue is Malcolm H. Kerr, The Arab Cold War, 1958-1970: Gamal ‘abd Al-Nasir and His Rivals (New York: Oxford University Press, 1971). [33] Zelikow et al., Suez Deconstructed, 280. [34] Nasser also subsequently got Egypt involved in a costly war in Yemen. On these mistakes and the road to the 1967 war, see Guy Laron, The Six-Day War: The Breaking of the Middle East (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2017), 55–85. [35] Due to space constraints, I do not evaluate Soviet policy. In general, however, the Soviets do not seem to have pursued the sort of deeply aggressive strategy during the crisis that many writers now say they did. Their decision to arm Nasser, however, certainly did not square with an approach that took power and political dynamics into account. Not only did it fail to buy Moscow any great influence in Egypt, but it increased the likelihood of a Middle East war that it clearly did not want. And even if it had improved the Kremlin’s position with Nasser, it is unclear what exactly that would have gotten the Soviets in strategic terms. [36] Zelikow et al., Suez Deconstructed, 312. [37] Quoted in Zelikow et al., Suez Deconstructed, 178. [38] Quoted in Zelikow et al., Suez Deconstructed, 284. [39] Philip Zelikow, Ernest R. May, and the Harvard Suez Team, Suez Deconstructed: An Interactive Study in Crisis, War, and Peacemaking, 2. [40] Zelikow et al., Suez Deconstructed, 2. [41] Zelikow et al., Suez Deconstructed, 3. [42] Zelikow et al., Suez Deconstructed, 4. [43] Zelikow et al., Suez Deconstructed. [44] Zelikow et al., Suez Deconstructed, 28. [45] Zelikow et al., Suez Deconstructed, 15. [46] Zelikow et al., Suez Deconstructed, 15. [47] Zelikow et al., Suez Deconstructed, 125. [48] Zelikow et al., Suez Deconstructed, 125. [49] Zelikow et al., Suez Deconstructed, 226. [50] Zelikow et al., Suez Deconstructed. [51] Zelikow et al., Suez Deconstructed, 210. [52] Zelikow et al., Suez Deconstructed, 63-64. [53] Zelikow et al., Suez Deconstructed, 202. [54] Zelikow et al., Suez Deconstructed, 77. [55] Zelikow et al., Suez Deconstructed, 219. [56] Zelikow et al., Suez Deconstructed, 219. [57] Zelikow et al., Suez Deconstructed, 11. [58] Zelikow et al., Suez Deconstructed, 67. [59] Zelikow et al., Suez Deconstructed. [60] Zelikow et al., Suez Deconstructed,  207. [61] See Diane B. Kunz, The Economic Diplomacy of the Suez Crisis (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1991); Guy Laron, Origins of the Suez Crisis: Postwar Development Diplomacy and the Struggle Over Third World Industrialization, 1945-1956 (Washington, DC: Woodrow Wilson Center Press, 2013). [62] See Leon D. Epstein, British Politics in the Suez Crisis (Champaign, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1964); Saul Kelly and Anthony Gorst, eds., Whitehall and the Suez Crisis (New York: Frank Cass, 2000). [63] See Benny Morris, Israel's Border Wars, 1949-1956: Arab Infiltration, Israeli Retaliation, and the Countdown to the Suez War (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 1997) and Michael B. Oren, "Escalation to Suez: The Egypt-Israel Border War, 1949-56," Journal of Contemporary History 24, no. 2 (1989): 347–75, https://doi.org/10.1177/002200948902400208. [64] Rose McDermott, Presidential Leadership, Illness, and Decision Making (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2007). [65] Philip Zelikow, Ernest R. May, and the Harvard Suez Team, Suez Deconstructed: An Interactive Study in Crisis, War, and Peacemaking, 1. [66] Zelikow, et al., Suez Deconstructed, 322. [67] Chester L. Cooper, The Lion’s Last Roar: Suez 1956 (London: Harper and Collins, 1978). [68] Mohamed H. Heikal, Cutting the Lions Tail: Suez Through Egyptian Eyes (London: Corgi Press, 1988). [69] Peter J. Beck, “’The Less Said About Suez the Better’: British Governments and the Politics of Suez’s History, 1956-67,” English Historical Review Vol. CXXIV (June 2009): 508, https://doi.org/10.1093/ehr/cep146. [70] Michael B. Oren, “Suez: A Crisis for all Seasons: A Review Essay,” Shofar: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Jewish Studies 12, no. 2 (Winter 1994): 104–07, https://doi.org/10.1353/sho.1994.0028. [71] Philip Zelikow, Ernest R. May, and the Harvard Suez Team, Suez Deconstructed: An Interactive Study in Crisis, War, and Peacemaking (Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution Press, 2018), 1. [72] Which originated as a teaching project at Harvard and grew into a broader funded project. [73] Zelikow et al., Suez Deconstructed, 124–25. [74] Zelikow et al., Suez Deconstructed, 224. [75] Zelikow et al., Suez Deconstructed, 226. [76] Zelikow et al., Suez Deconstructed, 227. [77] Zelikow et al., Suez Deconstructed, 312. [78] Zelikow et al., Suez Deconstructed. [79] Zelikow et al., Suez Deconstructed, 321. [80] Zelikow et al., Suez Deconstructed, 323. ) [contents] => Array ( [title] => Table of Contents [contents] => 1. "The 'Lessons' of History, Theory, and Statecraft," by Galen Jackson 2. "A War for Our Time," by Jordan Chandler Hirsch 3. "Suez Deconstructed: Muddying the Waters to Clarify Decision-Making," by Madison Schramm 4. "Deconstructing History’s Lessons for Statecraft," by Danny Steed 5. "Author Response: Lessons Learned," by Philip Zelikow ) ) [2] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 284 [post_author] => 102 [post_date] => 2017-11-25 03:45:32 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-11-25 08:45:32 [post_content] => Robin Collingwood, a British historian and philosopher, saw history as a reservoir of knowledge gained through instructive re-enactment. Consider Julius Caesar’s decision to “cross the Rubicon” with his army and challenge his Roman Republic. To understand Caesar’s choice, “This implies envisaging for himself the situation in which Caesar stood, and thinking for himself what Caesar thought about the situation and the possible ways of dealing with it.” The work of the historian in this case is not mere reproduction or description. To offer insight, “this re-enactment is only accomplished … so far as the historian brings to bear on the problem all the powers of his own mind and all his knowledge of philosophy and politics.” Such critical analysis “is not something secondary to tracing the history of it. It is an indispensable condition of the historical knowledge itself.”[1] This essay offers a micro-historical reconstruction of a fateful choice made by the United States. Satisfactory reconstructions of this kind are rare. When it comes to historical episodes of import, even those that have been extensively written about and researched, it is often difficult to identify when the critical choices actually occurred. It is even more difficult to reconstruct, with a policymaker’s eye, the information available at the time, the institutional context and the plausibly available alternative courses of action. This essay analyzes the U.S. decision to take the Philippines. It was fateful. Since the decision was followed by an ugly war, it seemed even at the time to symbolize a loss of American innocence, or worse, in the country’s dealings with the world. By 1934, when the Philippines seemed to be a strategic millstone and the United States chose a path to full independence for the islands, the majority Democrats in Congress led the way, eager to gain American “freedom from the colony.”[2] But before America could gain this “freedom,” the American presence in the Philippines became a great pivot point of world history. In 1940 and 1941, Japanese naval planners concluded that any move through the South China Sea into the resource-rich Dutch East Indies and British Malaya had to include an attack on American bases in the Philippines. To the Japanese, this conclusion meant that, if they moved south, war with America was unavoidable. They then developed a war plan that included an opening attack on Pearl Harbor as well as the Philippines.[3] After World War II, the American presence across the Pacific was vastly enlarged in every way. During and after the Vietnam War, historians again looked back at the 1898-99 decision to take the Philippines. They viewed it as a sort of original sin, one that now seemed to have foreshadowed all the other sins to come. As in the story of how America stepped across the Pacific, the grand strategies in U.S. international history usually have had a traumatic birth. Grand strategies do not typically arise from visionary thinking about the future. They arise instead from the collective experience of some great disturbance, looking backward at some catalytic episode that practically everyone remembers. As people try to make sense of what has just happened, they construct quick and understandable rival narratives to explain that past, the present and maybe the future. The shorthand narratives become entrenched, decaying into shibboleths — until the next trauma displaces them. Meanwhile, historians can slowly try to reconstruct what really did happen in the first place. Yet the rewards of micro-historical reconstruction of fateful choices can be great. The episodes are usually ones that people, including most historians, think they already understand. But in my experience the more one digs, the stranger the stories get. That is, the fateful choices become more lifelike, more interesting and more truly educational. The Philippines decision was made, principally, by President William McKinley. For generations, McKinley himself and the way he made this decision have seemed like an opaque blur. Some historians see McKinley as a dupe of clever would-be imperialists such as the young Theodore Roosevelt and his influential friend Sen. Henry Cabot Lodge. Or they see him as driftwood pushed about by domestic politics or by great cultural or economic currents, like an American search for new markets in places like China. Or they regard him as a kind of pious nincompoop who, as one standard work puts it, permitted “missionary and business expansionists to persuade him of what he may already have believed.”[4] There is a quote, supposedly from McKinley, that is the perfect caricature. It has McKinley describing how he “went down on my knees and prayed Almighty God for light and guidance” until he saw
that there was nothing left to do but take them all, and to educate the Filipinos, and uplift and Christianize them, and by God’s grace do the very best we could by them, as our fellow-men, for whom Christ also died.
For generation on generation this quotation has been repeated in innumerable accounts, including standard history textbooks. It is catnip for a teacher, a vivid quote to spark up a lecture. Even though the source of the quote, repeating years later what he thought McKinley had said, has long been suspect, that should hardly get in the way.[5] In the Philippines case, part of the cartoon is the image of President McKinley himself. There is that dreamy missionary zeal. There is also the view, as another standard work put it, that McKinley “simply lacked ideas …. as usual, he was bereft of ideas.”[6] Even those historians who are more sympathetic to McKinley, either seeing him as a hidden mastermind or agreeing that he seems to have had little choice, have not adequately understood his decision-making process in this case. As this article will show, McKinley made, in fact, five distinct sets of choices. In each he went through a fairly involved set of consultations, gathering information and weighing alternative courses of action. [quote id="1"] In his first major public address after his decision, in Boston on February 17, 1899, before a huge crowd gathered in a large hall, McKinley’s tone was somber. He gave the crowd not one whit of self-congratulation. “I do not know why in the year 1899 this republic has unexpectedly had placed before it mighty problems which it must face and meet,” McKinley announced. “They have come and are here and they could not be kept away.” It was the just-concluded war with Spain. “Many who were impatient for the conflict a year ago,” McKinley went on, “apparently heedless of its larger results, are the first to cry out against the far-reaching consequences of their own act.” Here he was referring to the opposition Democrats and Populists — then a third party with a strong following in the rural Midwest and South. In early 1898 the Democrats and Populists, along with many members of his own Republican Party, had joined the clamor for war with Spain. Then, clearly referring to himself and his conservative Republican allies who had been less interested in war or expansion, McKinley reminded his audience, “Those who dreaded war most and whose every effort was directed to prevent it, had fears of new and grave problems that might follow its inauguration.” McKinley did not offer his audience much optimism. He did not borrow so much as a word from the political or economic arguments that the expansionist jingoes had been making to defend the taking of the Philippines. Instead, his message was that “Grave problems come in the life of a nation” and that “the generation on which they are forced cannot avoid the responsibility of honestly striving for their solution.”[7] It remains then to better understand just how these “grave problems,” seemingly so unavoidable, had actually arisen.  Why, in a war to end years of bloody fighting and devastation in nearby Cuba, did the United States end up becoming the ruler of the faraway Philippine Islands? True, the Filipinos, like the nearby Cubans, had also rebelled against Spanish rule. But hardly anyone in the United States had noticed or cared. Also, the Philippines were really far away. They were a month’s journey by steamship from California. They were a vast chain of thousands of islands. Their population was large, about 10 percent of the population of the entire United States (about 7.5 million at a time when there were 75 million in the United States). Moreover, the United States had no colonial service. Its regular Army was tiny, about 28,000 strong. So, simply on these bare facts, an American conquest of the Philippines would seem absurdly impractical. How and why then did the United States of America take such a fateful step across the Pacific?

Dewey to Manila, April to May 1898

If there was a war with Spain, everyone knew the issue would be Cuba. Since the 1820s, Spain’s only remaining colonies in the Western Hemisphere were Cuba and Puerto Rico. The Cubans had rebelled and fought a “10 years war” from 1868 to 1878. War broke out again in 1895. Years of violence across the island had become a bloody stalemate. Neither side could defeat the other. Spain would not grant independence. The Cubans would not settle for anything less. It was obvious to Americans at the time that the United States might get pulled in. There was no mystery there. Any administration from that day to this, confronted with such awful conditions in that enormous neighboring island, would be arguing about whether or how to try to stop it. And back then Cuba was much more important to America than it is today. Many Americans had direct interests of every kind on both sides. The Cuban rebellion was headquartered in New York City. Many of the rebel leaders were American citizens. They called loudly for American intervention to stop the suffering. In 1898, the opposition Democrats and Populists were united in favor of intervention in Cuba. It is easy to see why. Flip through the pages of the Congressional Record of the time. The volume might fall open to remarks such as these, from a Kansas congressman, a Populist, that the past two years have been “years of blood and carnage; two years of nameless atrocities practiced upon the innocent and helpless portion of the Cuban population; two years of waiting and vacillation on the part of our Government; two years of our quiet consent to these butcheries.” The congressman suspected that McKinley stood by because he and other conservatives were “under the powerful influence of bond syndicates” that had loaned money to Spain and were “being controlled more by commercial considerations than by the interests of humanity and the cause of freedom.”[8] While the Democrats called for war, the majority Republicans were split. Conservative Republicans tended to see the war fever as a press-fueled distraction from more important matters. They thought a war might be bad for business. President McKinley had little desire for war and little interest in expanding America’s domain. His most trusted advisers felt the same way.[9] McKinley was a private man of relatively modest personal means. He was devoted to his wife, an invalid whose health had broken after the death of their child. He was the last American president whose demeanor and values would now be called Victorian. He was soberly dressed, very concerned for the proprieties of public appearance and behavior, religious, dignified, and virtuous. Outsiders often misjudged McKinley. Careful, gentle and conscientious in his personal manner, he was often assumed to be dull and weak. He was neither. McKinley probably had more personal experience as a front-line combat soldier than any American president in history except for George Washington. The last veteran of the Civil War to serve as president, he had experienced that war from start to finish. He had enlisted as a private in a regiment from his native Ohio. He had been promoted after a display of personal heroism on the terrible battlefield of Antietam, driving a supply wagon forward to beleaguered front-line troops under heavy enemy fire, an episode that stayed in the memories of all who witnessed it. Much of his fighting was as a cavalryman in the campaigns of the Shenandoah Valley, ending the war with the rank of major. One old comrade from the war wrote to McKinley after he was elected president, confessing that, “I knew you as a soldier, as a congressman, as a governor, and now as president-elect. How shall I address you?” “Call me Major,” McKinley replied. “I earned that. I am not so sure of the rest.”[10] Returning after the war to his native Ohio, the major became a lawyer, gaining renown for defending striking miners. As a Republican politician, he was mentored by some of Ohio’s most famous officeholders, including Presidents Rutherford B. Hayes and James Garfield, men who had known McKinley during the war. McKinley’s father had been an ironworker and McKinley’s politics were the politics of economic growth and tariff protection of American business. McKinley held his seat in Congress in a battleground district of a battleground state. In the tightly matched politics of the 1880s and 1890s, Ohio was usually the crucial swing state (along with New York and Indiana). McKinley held on because he could reach some Democratic and independent voters. He was known as an honest man. His political style was not fiery or inspiring; it was amiable and deliberate. One of the great journalists of his generation, William Allen White, recalled an interview with President McKinley. He went to the president’s modest home in Canton, Ohio. By then a heavy man but “never paunchy,” McKinley was clean-shaven and immaculately dressed. He laid his cigar aside so it would not show in a picture. “We must not let the young men of this country see their President smoking!” “I was sweating,” White recalled, “for it was a hot day. He was stainless, spotless, apparently inwardly cool and outwardly unruffled. I thought then, and I think now, that he sensed what I was seeking and guarded it from me, maybe consciously.” White recalls that “his mistrust was sweet and friendly and was revealed only by the guarded complacence in what he said. He refused to tousle his hair politically. He was the statue in the park speaking.”[11] That was the McKinley outsiders saw. His path to the presidency had not been easy. The nomination fight inside the Republican Party had been the hardest part. To win, McKinley had taken on his party’s leading political bosses. Through a political adviser, businessman Mark Hanna, McKinley had been offered a deal. If he promised to make one of the bosses the secretary of the Treasury, the boss would help clear the way for McKinley to get the nomination. One of those present remembered that, hearing this offer, “McKinley’s face grew serious — in fact, hard.” He remained silent for a while and then said, “Mark, some things come too high. If I were to accept the nomination on those terms, the place would be worth nothing to me and less to the people. If those are the terms, I am out of it.” McKinley and his allies had gone on to win the party nomination by beating the party bosses. They had outfought them with an extraordinarily well-organized grass-roots effort among the state party conventions.[12] McKinley came to the presidency hoping to concentrate on domestic matters, working closely with Congress. Most congressmen liked him. One frequent opponent (Sen. George Hoar of Massachusetts) acknowledged that McKinley’s “great wisdom and tact and his delightful individual quality” gave him unusual influence.[13] The waspish Henry Adams, a longtime White House watcher from his perch on the other side of Lafayette Park, usually reflected the “smart” Washington view that McKinley was little more than an amiable figurehead. Adams got some advice from his longtime friend John Hay, who had been an aide to Lincoln and was then in London as McKinley’s ambassador to Britain. Hay warned Adams.
[D]on’t you go to making mistakes about McKinley! He is no tenderfoot — he has a habit of getting there. Many among the noble and the pure have had occasion to change their minds about him.[14]
Taking office in 1897, McKinley had chosen a Cabinet with carefully balanced political interests. McKinley soon came to regret some of these choices. At the State Department, McKinley had already been working around his senile secretary, John Sherman. He replaced Sherman as soon as the war with Spain began in April 1898. For McKinley, getting his War Department ready for war was a hard problem. His secretary of war, Russell Alger, was a former governor of Michigan. The War Department’s deputy head (then called the “adjutant-general”) was a general named Henry Corbin. The U.S. Army then had only 28,000 regulars, scattered around the country in 78 posts; the largest had a garrison of fewer than 850. The Army had leveled off at this strength since the mid-1870s. It was about one-twentieth the size of the German army and a good deal smaller even than the army of Mexico. It was not “that there was opposition to a proper military establishment,” Corbin recalled later, “but rather that the people as a whole were indifferent about it, fascinated, as they were, with the wonderful growth and development of the country then going on.” Corbin had seen combat both in the Civil War and later skirmishes against Indian tribes. Where he could, he had arranged peace with Indians. He would have preferred peace with Spain. With the Civil War 33 years in the past, Corbin thought most Americans had forgotten what real war was like. “Only the poetry and fiction of war existed; the actual hardships and privations of war our young men knew nothing about.”[15] [quote id="2"] Fortunately for McKinley, the first actions in any war with Spain would fall to the Navy. The Navy would be ready. It had been developing plans for a possible war with Spain for years, after the Cubans began their latest revolt. Naturally its plans mainly focused on operations in the Caribbean. Also fortunate for McKinley was that Secretary of the Navy John D. Long was the president’s close friend. Raised in Maine, Long had made a legal and political career in Massachusetts. An occasional poet and playwright, Long had a gracious style that made him a popular speaker of the Massachusetts House, then governor, then member of Congress. It was in the House of Representatives during the 1880s that Long and then-Rep. McKinley became friends. Long’s deputy at the Navy Department was a young up-and-comer from New York, Theodore Roosevelt. A prolific writer, Roosevelt had written a good history of the naval War of 1812 and was devoted to naval readiness. McKinley and Long knew that Roosevelt was an outspoken expansionist. They had appointed him as a concession to the lobbying efforts of Roosevelt’s similarly inclined friend, Massachusetts Sen. Henry Cabot Lodge. Long, who was nearly 60, enjoyed Roosevelt, who was about to turn 40. Long regarded his deputy about the way a parent might regard an exceptionally precocious but somewhat wild teenager. To his diary, Long appraised Roosevelt as a man “so enthusiastic and loyal that he is in certain respects invaluable; yet I lack confidence in his good judgment and discretion. [Roosevelt] goes off very impulsively …. He has been of great use; a man of unbounded energy and force, and thoroughly honest — which is the main thing. … His forte is his push. He lacks the serenity of discussion.”[16] As the Navy planned for a war in the Caribbean, one of the lesser planning problems among its officers was: In a war with Spain, what should be done with the Navy’s Asiatic squadron? Since the 1830s the U.S. Navy had maintained a few warships in Pacific waters to protect American merchantmen from pirates and show the flag. The ships usually called at ports in China and Japan, and occasionally in Korea. In the Navy’s first plans, the Asiatic squadron would go after Spain’s ships and its Pacific base in the Philippines, in Manila Bay. That way the squadron could eliminate the Spanish threat to America’s Pacific commerce. Also, any gains in Manila might then become bargaining leverage for peace talks. This sort of logic was familiar to any student of the only recent transoceanic naval wars anyone could study, the wars of the rival empires long ago during the age of sail. Some naval officers had another idea for the Asiatic squadron: Send it all the way to the Atlantic Ocean to attack Spain’s Canary Islands, near the Spanish coast. But this idea seemed too risky and impractical.[17] Long relied on the career officials running the Navy bureaus. A special planning board had junked the Canary Islands attack idea by the summer of 1897. It went back to the Manila Bay objective, which would attack the nearby enemy and might give the Americans “a controlling voice, as to what should become of the islands, when the final settlement was made.”[18] Why do anything with the Asiatic squadron at all? Why not just let them keep sailing around doing what they usually did? There were two problems, which can be summarized in shorthand as coal and neutrality. This was an age in which the steamships ran on hundreds of tons of coal, which had to be regularly resupplied from a place where thousands of tons of coal could be stored and transferred into ship bunkers. Coal was not the only reason for a base or friendly port. The ships also needed access to repair facilities as well as occasional supplies of food and water. But coal was the most complex problem, in part because it was so difficult to store and transfer large amounts of coal at sea and to transfer it between ships. In East Asia, the United States “had no docking or coaling facilities for its handful of vessels and was completely dependent upon the British and the Japanese for these services.”[19] If war broke out with Spain, the U.S. squadron on the East Asian coast could sail the 700 miles from Hong Kong to Manila in less than a week, with all the coal its ships could carry. But unless the ships could secure a new base, they would have to sail around for a few weeks until the coal and other supplies ran low and then go off to some place where they could put thousands of tons of coal back in their fuel bunkers.  The closest American coaling station was in Hawaii, established by agreement with the Hawaiians in 1887. Then there were the problems of neutral rights. If there was a war with Spain all the usual ports of call for America’s Asiatic squadron — Hong Kong, Singapore and Nagasaki — would be in neutral countries such as Britain and Japan. Under the prevailing understanding of neutral rights, rights the United States had loudly insisted upon during its civil war, a neutral country could not host and supply ships of a power that was at war. If the ships of the belligerent power did not leave, the neutral power would have to intern them and their sailors. That meant that the neutral power would impound the ships and hold the sailors until they could be returned home in some neutral way. In short, the Asiatic squadron would not be able to stay where it was, based in Hong Kong. The squadron would have to leave. Where could it go after sailing around for a while? The only possible places would be to the nearest American coaling station, which was thousands of miles away in Hawaii, or go all the way home to the nearest U.S. naval base, in California. If that happened the Asiatic squadron might play no useful part in the war at all. Worse, the squadron’s withdrawal thousands of miles away would then open up the Asiatic shipping lanes to a potential Spanish attack on American merchantmen, since the Spanish did have an Asiatic base, in Manila Bay. The only other choice was for the squadron to attack Manila Bay. There it could try to blockade the Spanish for a few weeks, until the American squadron ran short on coal and had to run home. Or, more risky, the squadron could attack the Spanish squadron in Manila Bay and try to seize it to turn it into an American base. There was then little geopolitics or grand strategy in the paragraph of the Navy plan that dealt with the Asiatic squadron. There was a more banal question: What are we going to do with the Asiatic squadron during a war with Spain? Something had to be found for the ships to do. They could not just hang out in East Asia because of the neutrality problem in the region’s ports of call. So, unless they had an object, the handful of warships would have to spend a month sailing home and effectively sit out the war. If the Navy did not want to bring the ships the long way home, it had to find something for them to do in the Atlantic, like the Canary Islands scheme, or else send them to attack Manila. Of those two options, Manila was judged to be more practical, if risky. That risky option was therefore what the Navy expected the Asiatic squadron to do. It was led by Commodore George Dewey, a 60 year-old Vermonter who had been in the Navy since he arrived at the Naval Academy at age 17. He had last seen combat in the Civil War. But he had wanted this sea duty and he had an aggressive spirit. That was the spirit needed for this mission, which had a bit of a “win or die” atmosphere about it. If something went badly wrong with his attack, he would be thousands of miles away from any U.S. base to which he could retreat. [quote id="7"] When war came, the main U.S. naval forces were concentrated in the Caribbean and the Atlantic to be ready around Cuba. The five remaining battleships were assigned to the Caribbean and Atlantic. So were most of the modern cruisers. Of the 15 modern (armored or protected) cruisers in the Navy, Dewey’s squadron had only four. In principle, Dewey’s squadron could still outgun the Spanish ships in Manila Bay. But Dewey’s ships had to run through the entrance to the bay, which could easily be covered by shore batteries and mined. Then, even if they ran that gauntlet, Dewey’s ships would have to pummel the Spanish vessels that might be supported by shore batteries. The Spanish understood all of this. They too had expected and planned for possible war with the United States. They had developed the right kind of defensive plans for Manila Bay. But the Spanish had not implemented those plans. They had not installed enough of the needed artillery, observation posts or mines. An intrepid American consul in Manila observed the Spanish preparations and kept Dewey informed, escaping Manila to join Dewey just as the war began.[20] After a mysterious explosion sank the U.S. battleship Maine, then visiting Havana harbor, on February 15, 1898, preparations for a war with Spain quickened. Dewey had been told to gather his squadron in Hong Kong and prepare. There is an often-repeated story about how Roosevelt and Lodge schemed to send orders to Dewey to attack the Philippines on a day in February while Long was out of the office. The story is a myth that Lodge embellished in a later memoir. In fact, the orders that went out when Long was out that day had followed up on prior plans. Long reviewed them on his return to the office.[21] Relations were broken and war began on April 21. That day Long walked over to see President McKinley. It was a short walk. Back then the White House had no West Wing. Long would have strolled on a short path by some gardens between the State, War and Navy Building over to the door to the executive mansion. He was used to this. He would sometimes go over at night, dropping in on his friend to join a family dinner or while the president was reading the paper in the evening. The Navy Department, the State Department and the War Department were housed in the new ornate building completed in 1888, just west of the White House. Called the State, War and Navy Building until after World War II, this is now the Eisenhower Executive Office Building (and has been taken over by staff in the Executive Office of the President). Before walking to the executive mansion Long had discussed the first set of war orders with his Naval War Board. Then he and McKinley strolled for an hour that afternoon through the streets of Washington. The months leading to war had taken a toll on McKinley. He seemed visibly careworn and losing sleep. Long noted to his diary that the president “opens his heart to me, with reference to the struggle through which he has been and the anxiety it has involved.” Probably during this walk, Long explained that the Navy’s long-standing plans were to send Dewey on to Manila to attack the Spanish forces there. McKinley took this in. But he “preferred to consider the matter a little longer.” A couple of days later, there was still no approval from McKinley. There is no evidence about why he hesitated. Then news arrived from Dewey. As expected, the British governor in Hong Kong had just communicated the order: Dewey and his warships must leave their neutral harbor immediately. Neutral harbors in China and Japan were also expected to be unavailable, except as way stations home to America. On Sunday, April 24, Long went back to the White House and reviewed the situation with the president. Now the matter was urgent. What else could Dewey do but go on to Manila Bay, as planned? Long’s staff had drafted the order. The president finally approved it.[22] It took about a week for the Asiatic squadron to reach Manila Bay. On May 1, Dewey’s ships fought their battle. During the night, the Americans slipped into the bay without interference. The Spanish warships were engaged. All were sunk or disabled. Not one American life was lost. What a victory! From top to bottom the country was relieved and electrified by the news. Now what? What could Dewey’s squadron do next? The Navy had not planned for this. The Spanish garrison in Manila remained intact. It did not surrender. Dewey could put some Marines ashore at the Cavite Navy Yard, about eight miles from Manila. He could hang around for a while, patrolling the bay and maintaining a blockade. But he could not remain for months unless he could secure control of the port and its facilities. Dewey could not capture Manila. After hanging around in Manila Bay for a couple of weeks, Dewey cabled home that even if the Spanish surrendered he could not hold Manila without getting some troops. He estimated the Spanish troop strength at about 10,000 men. There were numerous Filipino rebels hemming in the Spanish by land, “although they are inactive and making no demonstrations.” Dewey asked for a “well equipped force of 5000 men.”[23] McKinley had anticipated this request. He had decided to send out an expedition to hold Manila, which Dewey’s victory had not quite placed in U.S. hands. A few months later McKinley would smilingly tell a friend, “If old Dewey had just sailed away when he smashed that Spanish fleet, what a lot of trouble he would have saved us.” But recounting the matter later in 1898 to a more knowledgeable group, McKinley was less airy. The problem, McKinley explained, was that the battle had
taken place at Manilla and not on the high seas[.] Manilla became a question from which we could not escape. Dewey had to go there to find the Spanish fleet. … [A]nd having destroyed their fleet Dewey found [Manila] to be the safest and indeed the only harbor open to him as by laws of neutrality he was excluded from all other countries[’] ports.[24]
Once the post-battle situation became clear, an expedition was put together to secure American occupation of the port. The Army had no plan whatsoever for the Philippines. It began looking frantically for regiments and officers that could go help hold on at least in Manila until there was a peace conference. The Army made its estimates of how many troops were needed to be sure of defeating a Spanish force of about 10,000 troops. The Army and Navy agreed to send some 15,000 to 20,000 troops, including many of the new volunteers enlisted for the war, to have enough soldiers to outnumber the Spanish. The Army’s commanding general, Nelson Miles, clarified the expedition commander’s mission. His orders told the commander, Maj. Gen. Wesley Merritt, that this was not some force “expected to carry on a war to conquer an extensive territory.” The expedition was only to establish “a strong garrison to command the harbor of Manila” and to relieve the burden on Dewey’s sailors and Marines.[25] The expedition went out in three waves as the Navy scrounged ships to carry and escort them.[26] The first group sailed at the end of May and arrived in Manila Bay on July 4. The remaining troops, including Maj. Gen. Merritt, arrived later in July. Waiting for the expedition week after week, Dewey’s situation was uneasy. Word spread that the Spanish were sending a naval force out to recapture Manila and that the force would include battleships that could outgun anything in Dewey’s force. Dewey’s ships might have to retreat. If American soldiers arrived, they might have to fade into the hills.[27] Meanwhile, warships from Germany, Britain, France and Japan arrived in Manila Bay. All these countries already had nearby bases in East Asia. These four squadrons waited watchfully, like carrion birds circling in the sky over a fallen animal. The German force alone was significantly more powerful than Dewey’s squadron and, as I discuss below, it was Germany that had the most ambitious designs for the Philippines. The potential longer-term significance of American occupation of this port began to dawn on both the McKinley administration and the American public. In the United States, the news of Dewey’s victory had set off a whirl of speculation. Some wondered whether the United States should even try to take the islands as a possession. All sorts of pressures in the United States were building about the future of the Philippines. For decades Americans had been arguing about how to assert themselves in the world. The American population was one of the largest in the world, and the U.S. economy was already the world’s largest. But no one was quite sure what being a world power meant. The 1890s had been a decade of great contrasts of old ways and new machines, as well as all sorts of domestic scars and divisions — old wounds of North and South plus new wounds from battles between labor and management in all the new industries. Amid this division, perhaps because of it, shows of patriotism, parades and flag-waving were so common and exuberant as to almost seem neurotic, as if a frantic outward display of pride and union was the constant, soothing balm applied to ease so much inward pain and striving. [quote id="3"] Some leading Americans had looked for ways the country could show off, could test its strength. But against whom? For what? [28] Meanwhile, for nearly 20 years since the British occupation of Egypt in 1882, the great European powers had been racing to expand their empires, competing in a frenzied land grab to include every open scrap of earth in the world. These scrambles had mainly focused on Africa and Asia. By comparison the Americans had seemed passive, preoccupied with what was going on in their own vast country. “As of the early 1880s educated Americans nearly all doubted the value of colonies and regarded efforts to conquer other populations as morally wrong.” But, reading the news of an apparent imperialist consensus in Europe, especially among British Liberals, during the 1880s and after the former “unanimity” of American opinion leaders “had begun to break down.”[29] Some outspoken men believed that the United States had to join this global imperial race and try to catch up. These advocates were called “jingoes,” a derision to mock such “by jingo” enthusiasms. The jingoes had applauded in 1893 when Hawaii’s American planters and professionals had engineered a coup to overthrow Hawaii’s native government. The leaders of the new government wanted to bring Hawaii into the United States. As noted earlier, Hawaii had the only U.S. coaling station in the Pacific and it had long been under American protection. But this Hawaiian government’s pleas for annexation had been tabled for nearly five years. The jingoes did not control the Republican Party in Congress or in the White House. McKinley had finally sent a Hawaiian annexation treaty to the Senate. But McKinley did not expect two-thirds of the Senate to ratify the treaty and he did little to press it.[30] When the war began, however, Congress immediately moved on the long-simmering Hawaiian question and annexed the islands. A public debate about the Philippine islands had begun. Yet in secret, McKinley wanted to use the Philippine position as a bargaining chip, just as the prewar Navy plans had envisioned. He was prepared to give the islands back to Spain, if that would indeed bring about “an honorable and durable peace.” McKinley left in his papers an undated note in which he had jotted: “While we are conducting war and until its conclusion we must keep all we get; when the war is over we must keep what we want.”[31]

The Secret Offer, May to June 1898

As spring turned to summer, McKinley’s main worry was about how to land troops and win the battles in Cuba. When war came, Alger, the secretary of war, was overwhelmed by his job. The Army had begun the war with no particular plans for how to fight it. To the better-prepared Navy Secretary, Long, it seemed the Army was “ready for nothing at all.”[32] As if to underscore this point, just as the war was getting underway the Army’s commanding general, Nelson Miles, wrote to McKinley opposing any expedition to Cuba during the summer of 1898. “This letter reached the President two or three days after war had been declared,” Corbin later recorded privately. “It shocked him beyond words. Only on one other occasion did I see him show more feeling. Among other things he said, ‘God willing and not failing us, we shall end the war before the General would have us begin operations. He little understands me; no more does he know the temper of our people. I deplore the war, but it must be short and quick to the finish.’”[33] With Alger difficult and Miles untrustworthy, McKinley decided to oversee the War Department as directly as he could. He personally supervised the Cuban campaign plan. To help, McKinley relied on Corbin, who was always just a short walk away in the new building west of the executive mansion. At the Navy Department, Long grew wearier as the conflict went on. With his young deputy, Roosevelt, off to the Army, his new deputy turned out to be very competent. But Long himself flagged. By mid-May, a McKinley aide observed,
Secretary Long moves along quietly. He is not sure-footed as his friends would have us believe. He hesitates, questions too much, seems hampered by too great conservatism and often he seems to be in the position of the surgeon who fails of … ‘nerve’ and decision at the critical moment.[34]
McKinley ordered the creation of a War Room in the executive mansion. It was staffed with clerks and telegraphers; large maps were hung with pins stuck in to show the positions of troops and ships. McKinley would often be there, reading cables as they came in and studying the maps.[35] McKinley’s style of leadership was not charismatic. He did not point the way and rally the troops. Cabinet meetings remained informal. McKinley might open with a story to put others at ease. His was another kind of leadership style — that of a judge. People would make their arguments. He would hear them out, not revealing his own views until the time for decision. When all had spoken, McKinley would state a decision and go around asking, “You agree?” To one of McKinley’s aides, the president “is the strong man of the Cabinet, the dominating force; but with it all, is a gentleness and graciousness in dealing with men that some of his greatest victories have been won apparently without any struggle.” His later secretary of war, Elihu Root, remembered McKinley as a “man of great power because he was absolutely indifferent to credit. His desire was to ‘get it done!’ He cared nothing about the credit, but McKinley always had his way.”[36] The new secretary of state, William Day, was used to McKinley’s style. A former judge from Ohio, Day had been the deputy to his aged predecessor in the job, John Sherman. From the start, it was Day who had done most of the foreign policy work for the president. As soon as war began, McKinley pushed Sherman out and Day took over the top job. A small-framed, thin-faced mustachioed lawyer nearing 50, Day had long been a fact-finder for McKinley on many problems. He was discreet and thorough. McKinley’s secretary noted, “Here is a quiet, one might almost say country, lawyer who has so conducted the foreign affairs of this administration as to win unanimous commendation.”[37] As soon as he was elevated, Day named his deputy, picking the best expert on international law that he could find. This was a bearded, stocky former State Department official (and Democrat), a Columbia professor named John Bassett Moore.[38] Day and Moore were McKinley’s allies when he made his high-risk move to use the Philippines as a bargaining chip. After the Spanish defeat at Manila Bay, there was turmoil in Madrid. London got word that the queen regent and key ministers might be ready for a deal, to give up Cuba in exchange for peace. The British came to the U.S. ambassador in London, John Hay, who relayed the private question: What peace terms might America accept?[39] Moore promptly drafted an answer. Terms could be generous “if immediately proposed by Spain, directly or by some mediator.” Spain would evacuate Cuba. The United States would manage a transition of power to the Cubans. Spain would cede Puerto Rico to the United States. If the Spanish did that, then the Philippines would “be allowed to remain with Spain.” In the Pacific the United States would only want “a coaling station,” either in the Philippines or in the neighboring Spanish-held Carolines island group.[40] On May 11, about a week after news had arrived about Dewey’s naval victory in Manila Bay, Day put this proposal for a deal before the Cabinet. Alger disagreed, but there is no evidence why. There the matter rested for a couple of weeks. McKinley was preoccupied with plans to launch a large U.S. expedition to eastern Cuba. This expedition was to land near the port of Santiago de Cuba, where the Navy had just bottled up the fleet that Spain had sent to Cuba. It was a risky plan, relying on a lot of improvisation and luck. The Americans would try to establish a firm hold in eastern Cuba and put off the huge challenge of trying to take on Havana, where the Spanish had the bulk of their strength.[41] Once that expedition plan was set, the diplomats went back to the peace move. Day’s plan now was to bypass the Cabinet and take the proposed bargain directly to McKinley. He would leave it to the president to “ascertain what his ‘jingos’ thought about it.” Day was “very strongly opposed to retaining the Philippines, except possibly some coaling station in them, upon any terms.” Day met with McKinley. They agreed on what to do. Day then instructed Hay, his man in London, to float the deal. The president, “speaking for himself, would be inclined to grant terms of peace” with the Philippines to remain with Spain, ceding only a coaling station, if Spain would give up Cuba. This deal would avoid the need for “further sacrifice and loss of life.” But Day asked Hay to warn that “Prolongation of war may change this materially.” To help make sure the proposed deal got through to Madrid, Day apparently also privately briefed the British ambassador in Washington. That envoy informed his French, German and Austrian colleagues. Thus the terms soon became known on the diplomatic circuit, though there was nothing in public that linked the offer directly with McKinley. Nor is there any evidence that this secret diplomatic move was discussed with other members of McKinley’s Cabinet. No one appears to have known about McKinley’s personal authorization except for Day and Moore in Washington, and Hay in London. Day reminded Hay to hide McKinley’s hand in this. The proposal to give up the Philippines could not be seen as “coming from us.”[42] Secrecy for McKinley was vital; he was taking a great risk by making this offer. Spain was the enemy. Its rule in Cuba was regarded as a loathsome tyranny. Its rule in the Philippines was getting similar attention. The jingoes, like Lodge and Roosevelt (then a colonel helping to lead a volunteer regiment preparing to go to Cuba), already felt strongly that, whoever ended up with them, the Philippine Islands had to be taken from Spain. Roosevelt, writing to Lodge from his Army camp in Texas on May 19, advised: “do not make peace until we get Porto Rico, while Cuba is made independent and the Philippines at any rate taken from the Spaniards.” He repeated this suggestion to Lodge on May 25.[43] To many Americans it would already have seemed wrong, even immoral, for America to hand Manila and the Philippine Islands back to Spain under any circumstances. To make it worse, the American president was the one suggesting this. Disclosure of McKinley’s move could have set off a terrific political storm. Further, Spain had not yet asked for peace or tabled any ideas. The Americans feared that making the first move would signal weakness or unreadiness to fight. So the plan was for the terms to be passed secretly to the Spanish. Then the Spanish would make the proposal, knowing that it was likely to be accepted. The first part worked. The terms were passed to Spain and its friends in Europe.[44] [quote id="4"] The second part failed to launch. The Spanish preferred to keep fighting. They had been encouraged by a naval skirmish in May and hopeful that the latest group of ships sent to Cuba might do well. They had belatedly dispatched another squadron to the Philippines. Instead, during June, Spain’s main diplomatic move was to ask the other great powers to join its fight in the Philippines, to mount a joint military intervention to take over Manila. “Spain,” Hay reported, “was not yet sensible enough to ask for peace, on even the most reasonable terms.” The secret offer dissipated. Day thanked Hay for his handling of “this most delicate matter.”[45]The war continued. There were more Spanish defeats. By the end of June, the American expedition to eastern Cuba had landed. The siege of Santiago de Cuba by land and by sea had begun. In the first days of July, American troops seized the high ground near Santiago in the fights at San Juan Heights and Kettle Hill. The Spanish fleet in Santiago went to sea and accepted battle. On July 3 it was destroyed. The remaining garrison in Santiago de Cuba surrendered. The other Spanish fleet, the one that had been sent to the Philippines, stopped. As a neutral power, the British refused to allow the Spanish warships to pass through the Suez Canal. The Spanish recalled the fleet to Spain, now worrying that the Americans might attack Spanish home waters.[46] From the Philippines came more news. A native Filipino government had declared its independence. Its soldiers were fighting as America’s friends, alongside the troops of the newly arrived U.S. expedition. The option of returning the islands to Spain had become a good deal more complicated.

Terms for an Armistice, July to August

During the summer of 1898 Americans started learning a lot more about the Spanish possessions in the Pacific. At the beginning of June, Albert Shaw, the editor of the Review of Reviews, one of the most-read news digests in America, observed, “A few weeks ago the great majority of the people of the United States knew nothing about the Philippines except in the vaguest possible way.” Now a great many American families were becoming aware of it because some of their young men were being deployed across the Pacific in a far-reaching expedition “absolutely without any precedent in our national history.”[47] Shaw’s digest, like many newspapers, included articles that described the situation in the Philippines. McKinley himself read these and other articles, leaving behind clippings or references to some notable articles in his papers. Anyone reading the articles in Shaw’s Review, or any other major newspaper, would learn that the Philippines was a group of islands with 6 million to 8 million inhabitants. The native racial background was given as “Malay,” with deep hostility among native groups in different portions of the islands (Tagal versus Visayan versus Moro, for example). They would also learn that a substantial number of Chinese and Chinese-descended families dominated the retail trade as well as a handful of foreign trading houses, mainly British. There were few available experts on the Philippines in the English-speaking or scholarly world. The best account to appear in English that summer in any source, in or outside of government, was an article from one of those few experts, an Englishman, John Foreman. He had long known Spain and the Philippines as a businessman and explorer, as a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, and he knew the Filipino revolutionary leaders too. McKinley read Foreman’s article.[48] Every account, including Foreman’s, stressed Spanish misrule. Spanish rule was portrayed as anti-modern and purely predatory. It had added little of value and it had stunted development and education in the islands. Local priests, the friars, routinely abused their authority, answerable to no law but that of their protective bishops, while there was a veneer of mediocre Spanish administrators who were corrupt, lethargic and cruel. Therefore, the Filipino revolutionaries were usually portrayed sympathetically. Foreman, for instance, regarded the young rebel leader, Emilio Aguinaldo, as a “smart, intelligent man, of a serious mien” with a real following, especially among the Tagal elite in Luzon. Aguinaldo was a “would-be reformer” who had resorted to force out of necessity. Yet every account also stressed that the local inhabitants were not nearly ready for or capable of self-government. Spain had created no intermediary institutions — no native assemblies or cadres of trained officials. There was the condition of the population, the absence of any infrastructure for modern government, and the deadly hostility among the different ethnic groups in the islands. Foreman concluded: “At first, no doubt, the islanders will welcome and co-operate in any arrangement which will rid them of monastic oppression. The Philippine Islands, however, would not remain one year a peaceful united Archipelago under an independent native government. It is an utter impossibility.” Worse, Foreman noted,
If the native Republic did succeed, it would not be strong enough to protect itself against foreign aggression. … I entertain the firm conviction that an unprotected united Republic would last only until the novelty of the situation had worn off. Then, I think, every principal island would, in turn, declare its independence. Finally, there would be complete chaos, and before that took root America, or some European nation, would probably have interfered.
For the readers of his day, Foreman did not need to do more than gesture at the recent record of what had happened in other lands that had thrown off Spanish rule. Throughout their adult lives, his 1898 readers had read accounts of the revolutions, civil wars, and foreign interventions that tormented Latin America throughout the 19th century, in every liberated province of the former Spanish empire. The possibility of foreign intervention was not abstract. During the 1880s and 1890s, every habitable rock on Earth had been claimed. Americans could remember having been caught up briefly in a strange little 1888 crisis involving British and German claims over the tiny islands of Samoa. Outside of the Qing Empire in China and the Kingdom of Siam (a kind of demilitarized zone between the British in Burma and the French in Indochina), there were no spots in East Asia and the Pacific that were not in European or Japanese control. The German, British, French, and Japanese warships were anchored watchfully in Manila Bay. Of these the German squadron was the most intimidating presence. This was no accident. From the outset of the crisis the German navy minister, unbeknownst to the United States, was “firm as a rock in his conviction that we must have Manila and that this would be of enormous advantage to us.” Kaiser Wilhelm II considered it “the first task of German diplomacy … to obtain naval bases in the Far East.”[49] The Philippines problem had arisen in what, in 1898, was probably the part of the globe most likely to set off a worldwide war. The breakup and possible partition of China seemed imminent. Korean independence was tenuous and near the most volatile spot on Earth, the place where the next general war then seemed most likely to break out. It was, a veteran British leader secretly confided, a crisis “pregnant with possibilities of a disastrous kind; and it might result in an Armageddon between the European Powers struggling for the ruins of the Chinese Empire.”[50] This was the Far Eastern crisis: the simmering cauldron of Qing, Russian, Japanese, German, and British interests in northeast China and Manchuria. During the spring of 1898 Hay had sent a handwritten letter directly to McKinley, outside of official channels. “The conditions of things in China is to the last degree serious,” he had warned. “[T]he present crisis is considered by English statesmen one of the gravest of our times.”[51] So far, the United States had endeavored to stay clear of this Far Eastern broil. The British secretly asked the Americans if they would consider joint action to protect everyone’s trading rights in China. The McKinley government had turned down the British request. But it obviously did not want to make the situation worse and trigger a possible world war.[52] The British ambassador to Germany had confided to Hay the British government’s hope that the United States would just keep the Philippines. There was, he said, “not a power in Europe [that] would seriously object to that disposition of them, while any other [choice] might disturb the peace of the world.”[53] Foreman thought a foreign power should establish a protectorate over the Philippines. That power would organize a largely native government while providing overall direction and defense. Foreman did not believe the Americans were up to the job. England, he thought, “would probably find it a less irksome task.” Shaw’s conclusion, in the Review of Reviews article mentioned earlier, was similar to Foreman’s, except that he thought America had to assume the burden.[54] All these considerations also had to account for a new factor. The Filipino insurgents had announced their own government. In late May, Aguinaldo and a number of his colleagues had returned to the Philippines from exile, encouraged by the U.S. consul in Hong Kong and aided by Adm. Dewey. Digesting all this, officials in Washington realized that the insurgents had to be taken into account. Yet the United States wanted to do nothing to foreclose its options. They cautioned Dewey, the expedition commanders, and their diplomats. All said they had made no compromising pledges to the insurgents. Dewey added: “In my opinion these people are far superior in their intelligence and more capable of self-government than the natives of Cuba, and I am familiar with both races.”[55] In mid-July, the Spanish were ready to talk about peace, using France as their diplomatic channel. The first step was to arrange terms for an armistice, while a peace treaty could be negotiated. From his perch in the Senate, Lodge weighed in about what he thought the terms should be. Lodge’s position was intricate. He wanted the United States to take all of the Philippines from Spain but then keep only the island of Luzon. Cede the rest to Britain, he argued, in a deal to get more Caribbean islands. Lodge spent hours in meetings and dinners lobbying McKinley and Day. They gave him the impression that they were still making up their minds.[56] McKinley and Day wanted to hear what John Hay thought, from London. Hay still liked the earlier idea of giving the islands back to Spain if there could be some “strong guarantee of fair treatment of natives” and a ban on Spain selling the islands to some other power (such as Germany). Hay reported that the British did, though, “prefer to have us retain Philippine Islands, or, failing that, insist on option in case of future sale.” The German government’s interest in getting something was all too evident.[57] What about Japan? The Japanese ambassador in Washington advised that “the Japanese government would be highly gratified if the United States would occupy the Islands.” The ambassador very politely added that “it would not be as agreeable to the Japanese Government to have them turned over to some other power.”[58] Hay’s views remained “conservative” (the usual adjective for Republicans not among the jingoes). But he was not sure his position was still workable. Reading that industrialist Andrew Carnegie was against the United States taking the Philippines, Hay wrote to Carnegie, “I am not allowed to say in my present fix, how much I agree with you. The only question in my mind is how far it is now possible for us to withdraw from the Philippines. I am rather thankful it is not given to me to solve that momentous question.”[59] On a hot July afternoon, McKinley invited his Cabinet members to join him on a Potomac River cruise on the presidential yacht. He wanted them to discuss peace terms. The Cabinet had longer arguments about this topic, mainly about the Philippines, than about any other subject during McKinley’s presidency. McKinley’s Cabinet, sitting together on the yacht on the Potomac, began its discussion. Day led off. He was still for giving the islands back to Spain, except for a coaling station. About half the Cabinet (including Navy Secretary Long) agreed with him. Those on the other side pointed out that returning the islands to Spain would seem appalling, given the sort of Spanish misrule that had led to war over Cuba. One Cabinet member quoted a distinguished senator who was against American expansion but still said he would “as soon turn a redeemed soul over to the devil as give the Philippines back to Spain.” Opinions wavered. The agriculture secretary wanted to keep all the islands and evangelize them. But he altered his views as he learned more about the Filipino insurgency. War Secretary Alger went back and forth. Another Cabinet member spoke for keeping Luzon and setting up a protectorate for the rest. The interior secretary saw great commercial opportunities and wanted to hold the islands. One of the more capable Cabinet members, the attorney general, also thought the United States should keep them all. The Treasury secretary, on the other hand, argued for complete withdrawal and returning all of the Philippines back to Spain. Through all this, hour after hour, McKinley offered little comment. He just kept the discussion going. The next day the arguments continued. As they kept going over the problems, several began emphasizing that the government needed more information about the situation, including the advice of people on the scene such as Adm. Dewey. At this point the U.S. government had not yet received a single serious written analysis of the situation in the Philippines, nor any recommendations, from any of its officers posted there.[60] Humility and caution prevailed. Defer, wait for more information from the field: That was the consensus. Peace commissioners would be appointed. They would sort out the Philippines problem as they got more information back from the islands. Beyond Spanish evacuation of Cuba and Puerto Rico and an island in the Ladrones (Marianas) that turned out to be Guam, the cease-fire terms for the Philippines were simple. The United States would occupy “the city, bay, and harbor of Manila pending the conclusion of a treaty of peace which shall determine the control, disposition, and government of the Philippines.”[61] McKinley and Day gave the terms to the French ambassador, Jules Cambon, representing Spain. Cambon complained that the terms were harsh. McKinley replied that Spain could have had a much better deal had it sought peace sooner. The armistice and cease-fire was signed on August 12. At the end of August, the Americans controlled and protected the city of Manila and surrounding waters. Little more. Aguinaldo’s revolutionary government was taking control of the rest of the surrounding island of Luzon. It organized a congress to meet in the government’s improvised capital, Malolos. Aguinaldo sent a message to the foreign powers reiterating the new government’s independence. They ignored him. No foreign country would recognize his government. The Spanish still held the Visayan islands south of Luzon, including Panay. Spain also retained nominal control of the large Muslim “Moro” islands in the south. Picking the peace commissioners, McKinley immediately put his most trusted aide, Day, in the lead. Moore would be the commission’s secretary. To go to Paris for the negotiations, Day would have to resign as secretary of state. John Hay was asked to come back to Washington and take over the State Department in Day’s place.[62]

Gen. Greene’s Mission and the Decision to Take the Philippines, August to October 1898

After the July debates, the Cabinet and McKinley agreed it was most important to get information and recommendations from the Americans who were on the scene in the Philippines. Of these men, none turned out to be more influential than a brigadier general named Francis Vinton Greene. It was an illustrious name. Greene came from one of the most respected military families in America. His grandfather was Nathaniel Greene, one of the most celebrated generals in the Revolution. His father had been a general during the Civil War, commanding a Union brigade at Gettysburg. Following the family tradition, Francis Greene had graduated from West Point in 1870 at the top of his class. Commissioned in the Corps of Engineers, he had been one of the surveyors on a renowned expedition during the 1870s in the Rocky Mountain West. As a staff officer in the War Department Greene had become close to President Ulysses S. Grant as well as to Gens. William Sherman and Philip Sheridan and other leading officers of the day. In these years, he first met the young naval officer George Dewey. Greene was assigned to go out and observe the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-78. He witnessed the principal campaigns and wrote a book about the war that became a standard account, establishing a unique reputation as a soldier-scholar. Greene left the Army in 1886 to go into business in New York City. Running an asphalt paving company, he became a powerful force in all the civic improvement and road-building issues of that city and beyond. That connected him well to local Republican politics. He was also elected colonel of one of New York’s militia regiments, the 71st New York. As war with Spain threatened, one of Greene’s friends, Theodore Roosevelt, pleaded with the colonel to accept him as a deputy in that regiment, a lieutenant colonel, if war came. (Roosevelt ended up finding such a place in a different regiment, commanded by Leonard Wood.) When the war did come, as Greene and his regiment readied for service in Cuba, Greene was ordered to command one of the brigades being assembled for the Philippines. It was not a hard call for Corbin at the War Department.  Corbin would later privately record that he regarded Greene as “one of the most competent soldiers I have ever known.”[63] After a difficult siege in the rainy season and a brief assault, Greene’s brigade and the other American troops had accepted the surrender of Manila. Greene, who could speak Spanish and French, was promptly put in charge of all the finances of the Philippine administration. He met with all the Spanish officials and leading private bankers and took actions to head off a financial crisis. This was the context when McKinley asked Dewey to provide his best advice about the situation in the Philippines. He asked Dewey to even consider returning to Washington to report directly to him on this vital matter. Dewey sent a brief reply, noting the desirability of Luzon but saying nothing about the revolutionary government that had been created by Aguinaldo. Dewey said he hoped he would not have to go to Washington while matters remained “in present critical condition.” Dewey, Army expedition commander Merritt, and Greene conferred. They decided that Greene should be the man to go to Washington.[64] News arrived of the armistice with Spain. Outside of official channels, Greene received a telegram from a well-connected associate. It advised him that the war was considered closed. Commissioners would determine the disposition of the Philippines. Greene’s friend thought the Army would just retain a garrison there. This informal news shocked the commanders in Manila. They feared the United States was planning to withdraw from the islands and thought that leaders in Washington did not understand the “critical” situation. On August 25, Merritt and Greene fired a salvo of telegrams to Washington through official and unofficial channels. In one, Greene asked his friend to go see Corbin as soon as possible, to even see President McKinley if necessary. He recommended that the president should send for “a competent and responsible person immediately” to come and brief them — either Maj. Gen. Merritt or himself, going to Washington or to Paris (to see the commissioners). Greene also cabled Day and Hay to the same effect. Washington reacted promptly. Merritt was ordered to turn over his command to a newly arrived major-general, Elwell Otis, and hurry at once to Paris. There he could brief the peace commissioners. Greene was ordered to Washington “by first transport.” Dewey said his views would come back with Greene. He again called for holding on to Luzon. He wrote little about politics or practicalities. The Filipinos, he did add, “are gentle, docile and under just laws and with the benefits of popular education would soon make good citizens” with capacities for self-government superior to the Cubans. On August 30, the day after he received his order from Washington, Greene boarded a steamship for Hong Kong. Boarding the ship with Greene was Aguinaldo’s representative, Felipe Agoncillo, who also hoped to see and influence the American president. Greene liked and respected Agoncillo. During the weeks of traveling the two men frequently dined together and chatted. Greene brought with him every book and relevant document he could find. He used the ensuing weeks of travel to draft a detailed report for McKinley, more than 60 pages, on “The Situation in the Philippines.”[65] Knowing how long his trip would take, Greene sent a preview. On September 5, as he changed ships in Nagasaki, Greene personally encoded an unusual telegram sent outside of standard Army channels. Written in the tightly abbreviated style of telegrams in that era, Greene sent his message directly to Day. It read:
Rep of Aguinaldo with me. Comes solely on his own responsibility. In my opinion Spanish Power Philippines dead. Any attempt revive it will result Civil War, anarchy and foreign intervention.
Once the 13,000 Spanish prisoners already in American hands were sent home, “Aguinaldo’s army will probably dissolve. He cannot maintain independent gov’t without protection of some strong nation.” Therefore: “Only safe course is for United States to hold islands and not divide them. British sentiment will support this unanimously. Have expressed these views Admiral Dewey. He fully concurs.”[66] Thus for the first time, in early September, McKinley and Day finally received a very plain statement about what their commanders in the Philippines thought about the points they and their Cabinet colleagues had been debating. In addition to the substance of this advice, McKinley would have realized its political significance. He could presume that eventually such advice would become publicly known. It would not be easy for the president to break with the advice he had received from his men on the spot, including the new national hero (Dewey). McKinley was still not quite convinced. Later in September, he convened his freshly appointed peace commissioners to discuss their instructions. Out for a carriage ride with one of them, a vigorous expansionist, McKinley seemed (to his companion) to be “timid about the Philippines.” To him, McKinley seemed “oppressed with the idea that our volunteers were all tired of the service and eager to get home. ‘The whole shooting match wants to quit,’ was the way he expressed it.” McKinley thought the country was in no mood for further military operations, including fights for expansion. At the meeting, the expansionist commissioners debated Day, whom McKinley had put in charge of the delegation. Day had not budged from his view that the United States should take as little as possible. To Day, the Americans had only liberated Manila. They had no obligations beyond that. Washington, Day argued, had to place some limit on humanitarian enterprise:
Because we had done good in one place [Cuba], we were not therefore compelled to rush over the whole civilized world, six thousand miles away from home, to undertake tasks of that sort among people about whom we knew nothing, and with whom we had no relation.
McKinley summed up. He could see why many Americans found the acquisition of territory naturally attractive. But he thought these attractions would wear off “when the difficulties, expense and loss of life which it entailed, became more manifest.” However, McKinley said he could no longer see how to return liberated Manila to Spain. Flowing from that, it also seemed doubtful to hold Manila without holding more of the surrounding island of Luzon. “Beyond this he did not seem inclined to go.” He then drafted the commission’s instructions accordingly. He privately told Day that, if territory was returned to Spain, it would be good to try to get some guarantees about the treatment of the inhabitants.[67] After four weeks of travel by ship and railroad, Greene’s train steamed into Washington on September 27. Greene went straight to the White House. McKinley practically cleared his schedule for him. Greene met for two hours with McKinley on the day he arrived. He delivered his report, which the president read and reviewed with him. The report was clear and vividly written. The next day McKinley had a copy of it sent to Paris for the commissioners, commending it to them. The next morning Greene was back at the White House, now joined by the new secretary of state, Hay. He stayed for lunch. Greene was back yet again in the evening, now joined by his wife, for a visit that mixed business and socializing. Two days later Greene was at the White House for still more discussions. Greene also arranged for McKinley to meet with his traveling companion, Aguinaldo’s representative Agoncillo. Greene joined that meeting too. Agoncillo was received purely as a private traveler since neither the United States nor anyone else had recognized his revolutionary government. While en route to Washington, Agoncillo had also previewed his position. Meeting with reporters he outlined that, above all, his government wanted absolute independence. If absolute independence was not possible, the next preference was to become a protectorate of the United States. A third preference was to be an American colony or, worse still, a British one. What they could not accept was any return to Spanish rule.[68] [quote id="5"] In their meeting Agoncillo told McKinley about the revolution and the new government. McKinley was noncommittal. Agoncillo’s written position was passed along to the commissioners in Paris, Agoncillo’s next destination.[69] In his own meetings with McKinley, in addition to going over his long report, Greene boiled down the options he thought were left to the United States. He wrote these out separately, as follows:
There are five courses open to us in the Philippines: first, to return them to Spain, which would mean Civil War for we have destroyed Spanish authority in the Philippines; second, to hand the Philippines over to the Filipinos, which would mean anarchy for they are at present incapable of self-government; third, to hand the Islands over to Germany or Japan, either one of which could probably take them over, but this would be an act of cowardice of which we are incapable; fourth, to put the Islands under some form of joint protectorate like that which was established [by Britain] for Egypt in 1882, but this has not proved successful and has resulted in one nation taking the whole responsibility; fifth, to take all the Islands as possessions of the United States and gradually work out their destiny, and this is the only proper solution.
McKinley read this over and over again, in silence. Then “with that kindly smile which was so characteristic of him,” he observed “gently,” that: “General Greene, that is very advanced doctrine. I am not prepared for that.” McKinley asked Greene if he knew what instructions he had just given to his peace commissioners. Greene did not. McKinley summarized his instructions as having been “to take the City and Bay of Manila and such additional portions of the Island of Luzon as they think necessary for naval purposes, and to return the rest of the Islands to Spain.” This summary by McKinley is somewhat different and narrower than the language he had signed off on September 16. But Greene’s account may give a truer sense of what McKinley actually had in mind.[70] Greene then set out to change McKinley’s mind, to persuade him that the United States had to take control of the whole Philippines. He went over all that he had done and learned in his six weeks in the Philippines. He talked about how he had used his Spanish to have long exchanges with all the prominent Filipinos in Manila and how he had spent more time learning from Agoncillo. Therefore he had to disagree, “respectfully but with extreme urgency.” Greene had time to go into great detail about his analysis of the situation during the three extended meetings he had with McKinley, each of which were two to three hours.  It was, as Greene had explained in his written report, a situation “without precedent in American history.” There were more than 7 million people in the Philippines. Manila, a city of 400,000, was already under U.S. military rule. All of this had been ruled by a Spanish officialdom of no more than 30,000, most of whom were now trying to escape back to Spain. “The Spanish officials have intense fear of the Insurgents; and the latter hate them, as well as the friars, with a virulence that can hardly be described.” The Spanish could neither cope with the insurgents nor surrender to them. An attempted restoration of Spanish power would produce “civil war and anarchy, leading inevitably and speedily to intervention by foreign nations whose subjects have property in the Islands which they would not allow to be destroyed.”[71] As for the Revolutionary Government of Aguinaldo, Greene assessed that it would be a “Dictatorship of the familiar South American type …. a pure despotism.” He saw “no reason to believe that Aguinaldo’s Government has any elements of stability.” Aguinaldo was a young man of 28. Though Greene thought Aguinaldo was able, Greene did not think he could command wide or enduring support. Also, the insurgents were purely “Tagalo” in ethnic composition. Greene did not assume that the Visayans, more numerous than the Tagalos, would fall in line. There were plenty of fault lines for conflict among “the thirty races in the Philippines, each speaking a different dialect.” Greene believed the United States could gain the support of the educated and propertied Filipino elite, since they “fully realize that they must have the support of some strong nation for many years before they will be in a position to manage their own affairs alone.” Their ideal for this was a Philippine Republic under American protection, “much as they heard is to be granted to Cuba.” On this desire for a protectorate, “all are agreed” among the Filipino elite. Only Aguinaldo and his inner circle were doubtful. But, Greene argued, the protectorate option was harder than it might seem. “[I]t is difficult to see how any foreign Government can give this protection without taking such an active part in the management of affairs as is practically equivalent to governing in its own name and for its own account.”[72] Just taking only some portion of Luzon would, Greene had written, be “a terrible mistake” for all, including for McKinley’s presidency. It could embroil the United States in a conflict with another country that later intervened in the other islands. What if Aguinaldo and the insurgents did not accept U.S. rule, even temporary rule? Greene admired the way the insurgents had fought the Spanish:
Nevertheless from daily contact with them for six weeks I am very confident that no such results could have been obtained against an American Army, which would have driven them back to the hills and reduced them to a petty guerrilla warfare. If they attack the American Army, this will certainly be the result, and while these guerrilla bands might cause some trouble so long as their ammunition lasted, yet with our Navy guarding the coasts and our Army pursuing them on land it would not be long before they were reduced to subjection.
McKinley gave Greene ample time to describe the situation and make his case. At the time, Greene thought that he had not been convincing enough. He thought he had “utterly failed to shake” the president’s reluctance to take the Philippines. Looking back on it years later, Greene saw that perhaps his seeds had borne fruit after all. He recalled that, as the two men parted at the end of September, McKinley said he intended to start a trip to the West to make a series of speeches about the unexpected results of the war. Smiling, he told Greene, “Perhaps when I come back I may think differently from what I now think.”[73] McKinley kept gathering information. During early October, Day and Moore sent him detailed, substantive reports from Paris summarizing what the commissioners had learned from Merritt and other experts, including Foreman. All of the information gathered in Paris seemed to line up with what McKinley had heard from Greene. A report given great weight by Merritt was the view of the Army’s lead surgeon in the Philippines, Frank Bourns. Bourns had spent years visiting the islands as a scientist during the early 1890s. Returning with the Army, Bourns had taken charge of public health in the Philippines after the American occupation of Manila. He had worked directly with Filipino leaders to make progress. From Paris, Bourns was reported as believing that “if a few ambitious insurgent Chieftains could be disposed of, masses of natives could be managed by the United States. Considers natives incapable of self-government because of lack of good examples, lack of union in Luzon and throughout Archipelago, and existence of race, tribal and religious differences.”[74] Outside of formal channels, McKinley had access to a more unvarnished side of Bourns’ views. Someone had given the president part of a lengthy private letter Bourns had written from Manila. In this letter Bourns did write that “these people could be managed if properly handled.” Yet Bourns was angry about the attitudes of his fellow Americans. He warned that none of the other American officers, with one exception, “seem to have cared to inform themselves either of the character of the people or their desires, nor do they even care to explain our desires and intentions.” In his letter, left in McKinley’s papers, Bourns bluntly sized up the situation this way:
Aguinaldo has the whole Philippine population at his beck and call. He is the successful man and has the successful man’s influence. The lower classes have a blind confidence in him. With the middle classes it is an ambitious confidence; that is they do not know quite enough to understand that an independent government cannot long continue to exist and are anxious to see it, because they expect to get the plums. With the well educated and wealthy people it is merely a question of expediency; they support the Philippine Government so that they may influence it for the best. I venture to say that ninety-five percent of them at heart want to see American protection, and a good many of the most influential want to see annexation, but the masses of the people know nothing about Americans and think we are just like the Spaniards. Our officials take no trouble to educate them; our men simply refuse to have anything to do with them, will not recognize them nor write to them officially, and many of the line officers, such as colonels, majors, and captains, treat them as cattle to be knocked around as suits their pleasure.
Of course, Bourns wrote, “This is all wrong.” If the United States did not do better, Bourns feared that it would find itself in a war with the Filipinos. Yet Bourns thought the problem was still manageable. With some “tact and patience,” and attention to the Filipinos, “the whole Filipino government could be swung our way without bloodshed.”[75] In mid-October, having received no further guidance from Washington, Dewey weighed in again. He sent a terse cable pleading for a decision about the Philippines “as soon as possible, and a strong government established.” In Luzon, Dewey wrote, Spanish authority had been “completely destroyed.” Outside Manila, “general anarchy prevails.” The islands to the south would soon fall into the same state. “Distressing reports have been received of inhuman cruelty practiced on religious and civil authorities in other parts of these islands. The natives appear unable to govern.”[76] McKinley left Washington for about 10 days in October, traveling around the Midwest to rally support for the upcoming midterm elections. It was during this trip that McKinley began to speak publicly, in vague terms, about American duty and unexpected obligation. At one point some scholarly opinion tended to think McKinley was trying to gauge public opinion. In fact he was deciding how to lead it, and lead it toward the conclusion firming up in his own mind.[77] By the time he returned to Washington, McKinley had decided that there was no good middle ground. No government had recognized Aguinaldo. With the notable exception of Germany, the other great powers seemed to prefer American control now that Spanish rule was gone.[78] Back in Washington, Secretary of the Navy Long wrote to his wife,
If I could have had my way, I wouldn’t have had the war, and I wouldn’t have been burdened with Porto Rico or Cuba or the Philippines. They are an elephant, just as everything else is an elephant that disturbs the even tenor of our national way, but there they are, and my shoulder goes to the wheel.
McKinley cabled the commissioners: “We must either hold [the Philippines] or turn them back to Spain.” McKinley now saw “but one plain path of duty — the acceptance of the archipelago. Greater difficulties and more serious complications — administrative and international — would follow any other course."[79] A few weeks later, McKinley talked privately to a colleague about how he had worked through the arguments. The islands could not go back to Spain. If they went to another European power “we should have a war on our hands in fifteen minutes” and the United States would be responsible, having let it happen just to escape responsibility for its actions. McKinley reviewed the geography of the islands. He discussed why it had seemed so difficult to separate them. His visitor congratulated McKinley on his decision and remarked on what great confidence the people had in him. McKinley was having none of it:
Yes that confidence, that awful confidence. Consider what a burden that imposes on me. I almost wish these questions were not so much left to the decision of any small number. I can foresee for myself and for the people nothing but anxiety for the next two years.[80]

The Attempt to Negotiate a Peaceful Settlement With the Filipinos, January to June 1899

Analysts of the American choice in the autumn of 1898 can easily overlook that there was no ready way the U.S. government could simply turn the Philippines over to the revolutionary Filipino republic, even if it wished to do so. Under international law and in the view of other powers, the Philippines was still sovereign territory of Spain, as was Cuba, until they were lawfully ceded to another recognized government. No foreign government had recognized the Filipino republic or had any plans to do so. If the United States refused to take the islands, it would be leaving them with Spain. Even U.S. recognition of the Filipino republic, if America had wished to offer it, might not have disturbed other powers’ belief in Spain’s claim. If tired Spain wanted to give up its territories in the Pacific, the German government was already secretly discussing with Spain its hopes to get them. And Spain did end up selling to Germany all its Pacific territories that were not ceded to the United States — the Caroline, Palau and Marianas island chains (except for the island of Guam).[81] If the United States wished to grant self-government to the Filipinos it would have to do what it was doing with Cuba: first take legal control of the territory, then decide what to do. That is what McKinley had decided to do. The United States took over sovereignty of the Philippines, paying $20 million to Spain as compensation. Then President McKinley planned to decide what to do in a negotiation with the Filipinos. The treaty of peace went to the U.S. Senate for ratification. A two-thirds majority was needed. Opponents fought hard for votes to block ratification. Some opposed taking the Philippines because they were anti-imperialist. Racism influenced arguments all around — “white man’s burden” arguments on one side; “we don’t want to have anything to do with them” on the other. Both sides argued business advantages or disadvantages. Progressive reformers tended to support the treaty.[82] As McKinley worked on how to organize governance of the Philippines with the Filipinos, he was working on a similar problem with Cuba. The two cases might seem different since Congress had decreed that Cuba was to be assured independence. But, despite that apparent difference in the legal situation, McKinley appears to have adopted the same basic approach for both cases. Both had been ceded to the United States. In both, McKinley set up interim U.S. military governments. He wanted to then replace these with local self-government. The new Cuban government took office in 1902.  Cuban independence, promised by the prewar Teller Amendment, was granted with conditions imposed by another act of Congress, the Platt Amendment. The new Cuban government agreed that it would not submit to control by another foreign power and that it would not take on unpayable foreign debts (which could lead to such control). It granted America the right to intervene “for the preservation of Cuban independence” and granted naval basing rights to the United States. Many Cubans found these conditions offensive. But, seen from Washington, this outcome was a defeat for the hopes of the jingo faction. The jingoes had schemed to maneuver the United States into annexing Cuba. They failed. American military occupation wound up its work in 1902. The United States did have to intervene in civil conflict in 1906 but withdrew after order was restored. The Platt Amendment had ultimately been supported by anti-imperialists such as George Hoar because of a
general recognition that the amendment represented a true compromise. It promised to give the Cubans real internal self-government. … Besides, no one could find an alternative that had any reasonable chance of acceptance in both Cuba and the United States. [83]
As with his plans for the Cubans, McKinley hoped to work out a plan of government peacefully with the Filipinos. As he assembled a commission to do this on his behalf, McKinley issued repeated instructions to his commander in Manila, Gen. Otis, to occupy strategic points in the islands but do everything necessary to avoid conflict with the insurgents. Otis was to be “firm but conciliatory.” The interim military rulers were to aim at some sort of “benevolent assimilation, substituting the mild sway of justice and right for arbitrary rule” for “the greatest good of the governed.”[84] This goal was necessarily vague. To lead his commission, McKinley did not choose an expansionist. He did the opposite. He called on Jacob Gould Schurman, the president of Cornell University. McKinley knew Schurman had been opposed to territorial acquisitions; they had exchanged letters about it in August. Schurman was startled to be asked to lead such a commission. Meeting McKinley in January 1899, he said straight out, “To be plain, Mr. President … I am opposed to your Philippine policy: I never wanted the Philippine Islands.” “Oh,” McKinley answered, “that need not trouble you; I didn’t want the Philippine Islands, either … but in the end there was no alternative.” McKinley reviewed his reasons. Now Schurman had to work out what government should come next. He recalled that McKinley’s mind was entirely open on how to settle the governance question. “It was still open to us, in dealing with the Filipinos, to grant them independence, to establish a protectorate over them, to confer upon them a colonial form of government” or even to consider statehood. “Absolutely nothing was settled.” Schurman confirmed that his commission would be McKinley’s eyes and ears. He was instructed to heed the aspirations of the Philippine people “en masse” along with the various “tribes and families which compose that heterogeneous population.” Schurman helped select the other commissioners and they left America at the end of January 1899.[85] Meanwhile, McKinley asked Gen. Greene to give him some more help. He wanted Greene to talk to and reassure Aguinaldo’s envoy, Agoncillo, who had returned to Washington. Getting his instructions from the president, Greene gathered that what McKinley intended for the Philippines was to build up a large system of public education with “a constantly increasing participation in civic rights and duties, starting with local government and then progressing to the governance of all the islands.” Greene was taken aback by McKinley’s plan. To Greene, it seemed like “a novel experiment” and a risky one: “Englishmen of long experience in colonial affairs doubted its wisdom.” To Greene, McKinley’s ideas seemed unprecedented. “Self-government has hitherto grown up from the bottom; McKinley planned to donate it from the top.” Despite his doubts, Greene followed orders. He met with Agoncillo in January 1899. He outlined American hopes. Greene urged Agoncillo to wire Aguinaldo and help head off a conflict. Agoncillo refused to do it. He feared that if he sent such a message the revolutionaries back home would regard him as a traitor. He could do nothing, he said, “unless the United States could grant absolute independence to the Filipinos under American protection against foreign nations.” It is again worth noting Agoncillo’s language: “absolute independence” yet with “American protection.” There was an obvious tension between these two goals that would have to be worked out, presumably in negotiation. But Greene had no authority to preempt what the Schurman commission might work out. So Greene argued that, at this stage, Washington could not simply grant independence. The Filipinos should trust the U.S. government “to work out such a scheme of government as would be most suited to their conditions.” He warned that if the Filipinos attacked the Americans, the results would be disastrous. Agoncillo said that even to relay such a message would be the end of his career.[86] Readers today should not assume that any negotiated agreement on Filipino self-government in some form of American protectorate was ruled out by the prevalence of racist American attitudes toward the Filipinos. Such attitudes were certainly a serious obstacle to understanding. Some advocates of American expansion were Anglo-Saxon racial exceptionalists, such as Roosevelt, Lodge, and the still-emergent Albert Beveridge, as were some presumed experts on the Philippines. Yet there is not good evidence that such racial views were held by McKinley and his inner circle. In the context of his party, McKinley himself had been relatively forward on defending the rights of African-Americans in the South and had made news by meeting with African-Americans during the 1896 campaign. Corbin had come from an abolitionist family background, had commanded a “colored” regiment during the Civil War (clashing with another such commander whom Corbin thought had needlessly risked his “colored” troops), and had been critical of officers in the Indian wars who had sought conflict rather than compromise. Long wrote of the Anglo-Saxon character, but he diarized admiringly about black troops in U.S. service and detested Southern racial practices.[87] [quote id="6"] Among the presumed experts on the Philippines, Foreman, Greene, and Bourns all made strong, sympathetic connections with many Filipinos. Foreman and Bourns were openly scornful about ignorant Americans who would not take the trouble to understand the Filipinos.[88] Schurman and his fellow commissioners started their journey across the Pacific. War started before they arrived. McKinley can perhaps be excused for not realizing that war in the Philippines might be imminent. He might well have thought he had more time. Again and again he had instructed his field commander, Gen. Otis, to “proceed with great prudence, avoiding conflict if possible … be kind and tactful, taking time if necessary to accomplish results desired by peaceful means.” Otis was repeatedly also urged to rely on Bourns, whose views had obviously impressed someone in Washington. Otis had reassuringly reported that “order prevails.” His messages discussed the tension but also conveyed that conditions were “quiet” or “improving.”[89] It was early in February 1899, while Schurman and his commissioners were on their steamship, that news flashed to Washington that fighting had begun. McKinley had been working on the speech he was to give in Boston in a couple of weeks. His assistant brought in the dispatch with the tragic news. McKinley stopped his work. He read and reread the wire. He sat well back in his chair and finally said,
It is always the unexpected that happens, at least in my case. How foolish those people are. This means the ratification of the treaty; the people will understand now, the people will insist upon its ratification.[90]
Two days after the fighting started, on February 6, the U.S. Senate voted 57-27 to ratify the peace treaty, a margin of only one vote more than the required two-thirds. The Senate debate had been eloquent and well-covered in the nation’s newspapers. Every imaginable argument had been made for why America should expand across the Pacific; every argument had been made for why it should not. Now the Senate had decided. McKinley had spent much of the past month talking to the senators. Between the loud arguments of the imperialists and anti-imperialists, the “truly decisive figures” were the “conservative men” of the Senate. These men had shown no enthusiasm for expansion. Like McKinley himself, these senators had “resisted war with Spain almost to the bitter end” and they had grave doubts about the Philippines. They had finally gone along with this “radical” treaty because they had decided to follow the lead of their president.[91] McKinley continued to remain open-minded about the political future of the Philippines. In his February 17 Boston speech, the one that was so somber in tone, he said:
No one can tell to-day what is best for them or for us. I know no one at this hour who is wise enough or sufficiently informed to determine what form of government will best serve their interests and our interests, their and our well-being.
But his audience should be sure, he added, “No imperial designs lurk in the American mind.” To this at least, the audience applauded.[92] The fighting in the Philippines escalated into a full insurgent offensive against Manila. The insurgent attack was bloodily defeated. The campaigning began. By the time Schurman and his fellow commissioners finally arrived, the war had been underway for a month. Even under these circumstances, there was an episode that showed how close the two sides might have been to a negotiated agreement on a model similar to that which was worked out for Cuba. Schurman proposed, with McKinley’s approval, that an American governor-general, appointed by the president, would rule with a Cabinet he would select and grant Filipinos “the largest measure of local self-government consistent with peace and good order.” The Filipino Revolutionary Congress voted unanimously to accept these terms. The revolutionary Cabinet was replaced on May 8 by a new “peace” Cabinet. Aguinaldo sent word to Schurman that his new Cabinet was “more moderate and conciliatory.” His envoy revealed that Aguinaldo was prepared to drop his demand for independence and accept American sovereignty. Determined to fight the Americans, the violent-tempered commander of Aguinaldo’s revolutionary army, Gen. Antonio Luna, arrested the leaders of this new peace Cabinet. Aguinaldo went along with this. The previous Cabinet returned to power. Part of this battle was an increasingly bitter struggle among Filipinos in Luzon about who would collect taxes, own land, and wield police power when Spanish colonial rule collapsed. The war continued. The next month, in June 1899, Aguinaldo, or at least his inner circle, apparently arranged the assassination of Gen. Luna. It was too late. By this time, Schurman was being challenged within his commission by its other members, which included Otis. Schurman wanted to enlarge guarantees of Filipino participation and was open to a cease-fire while negotiations went on. His colleagues now preferred “prosecution of the war until the insurgents submit.” McKinley was caught between his desire for peace with “kindness and conciliation” and his readiness to send whatever forces were needed to end the fighting if Filipino resistance continued. McKinley ended up deferring to Otis. Schurman returned home toward the end of 1899, his mission a failure.[93] That war unfolded over the next three years about the way that Greene had foretold it might in his September 1898 report to McKinley. The Filipinos were soon driven “into the hills.” Conflict quickly degenerated into savage guerrilla fighting. Deprived of access to outside arms by American control of the sea, after a few years practically all resistance collapsed. By this time most of the Filipino elite had decided to work with the American government. Filipino soldiers fighting alongside the Americans were key to the U.S. victory.[94] The war devastated regions, divided Filipinos against each other, and led to many atrocities. Thousands of American soldiers died, as did many more thousands of Filipinos.[95] After Schurman returned home, McKinley tried again. To lead this second commission McKinley picked a federal appeals judge, one sitting on the same circuit court to which Day (returned from Paris) had been appointed. Day arranged an introduction. All were impressed with this young judge, William Howard Taft. It was Schurman all over again. McKinley asked Judge Taft to lead the commission. Taft answered, “Why, Mr. President, that would be impossible. I am not in sympathy with your policy. I don’t think we ought to take the Philippines.” “Neither do I,” McKinley retorted. “But that isn’t the question. We’ve got them. What I want you to do now is to go there and establish civil government.”[96] Taft’s work outlived McKinley, who was assassinated in September 1901. The civilian Taft commission clashed with the U.S. military and some jingo sentiment, but it forged a consensus that worked for Americans and a great many Filipinos, especially the much-discussed Filipino elite. That elite class, the ilustrados, continued to dominate the country’s politics, before and after independence. U.S. military rule ended in 1901. Taft became a civilian governor. The Philippine Organic Act of 1902 created a Bill of Rights and a process for nationwide elections. This codified an American protectorate with increasingly Filipino self-government. More legislation in 1916 advanced that objective. Advocates on both sides of the Pacific, including Filipinos, argued about whether or when to end the American protectorate and fix the date for full Filipino independence. The argument was settled in 1934. The Philippines transitioned to commonwealth status with full independence set for 1944 — a date delayed until 1946 because of another war.

Alternative Futures?

Studying the exercise of judgment, the main purpose of this essay is to offer a more educational “re-enactment” of a fateful choice, in light of the information and possibilities reasonably visible at the time. Carefully reconstructed, without the blinding effect of hindsight, McKinley does seem to have made remarkably deliberate, thoughtful choices at all five stages of his Philippines decisions. At each point he also improvised to get the best information he could from a system that did not naturally provide it. Whether, in hindsight, these decisions turned out to be “right” or “wrong” is a different question.  That question is worth a brief epilogue. After all, historians are like most citizens: They tend to praise ill-judged decisions that they think turned out well and condemn well-judged decisions that they think turned out badly. With the benefit of hindsight, it is easy to argue about McKinley’s decisions. Critics can stress the subsequent agony of the Philippine-American war, the legitimacy of Filipino aspirations, and note the patronizing incompetence of many American administrators. [quote id="8"] Yet it is still hard to sketch a plausible alternative path, one more peaceful and more prosperous, for an immediately independent Philippines. The self-government concerns were real. Such a Philippines would have had no American shield from other foreign intervention. That danger also was real. The German Empire snapped up all the Spanish Pacific possessions it could get, all that Spain had not ceded to the United States. The Filipinos also would not have had the trade openings to the American market that their business leaders considered vital. Nor would they have had the benefit of later American nation-building efforts and infrastructure investments, which were substantial.[97] It is not hard to imagine alternative paths that could have been worse, perhaps much worse. The histories of other lands liberated after longtime Spanish rule, from Mexico to Argentina, offer a picture book of tragic examples. And, as in much of Latin American history, arguments about alternative Filipino futures soon focus more attention on the fault lines within Filipino society itself, such as the divide between pro-American ilustrados and others. Such fault lines produced a nationwide insurgency after 1946 (the “Huk” insurrection). They remain fault lines in Filipino life today. Assessing the alternative futures for the United States are another matter. Americans could have shrugged and regarded the future of the islands and its inhabitants as someone else’s fault and someone else’s problem. The United States would have had little or no Filipino blood directly on its hands. American soldiers would not have engaged in a bitter war, stained by outrages of every kind. McKinley did not take the Philippine islands because he was confident that America would gain power or profit by it. In every aspect of his public and private life, McKinley was a man, like many then, who tried to live by codes of duty. In his Boston speech, McKinley explained his conception of America’s duty “after freeing the Filipinos from the domination of Spain” to prevent a descent of the islands into violent anarchy. He told his audience, frankly, that “It is sometimes hard to determine what is best to do, and the best thing to do is oftentimes the hardest. The prophet of evil would do nothing because he flinches at sacrifice and effort, and to do nothing is easiest and involves the least cost.” For McKinley, circumstances had placed the United States into a position of responsibility. To him and many of his contemporaries, abandoning the islands to their fate would not have ended that responsibility. It would merely have shirked it. Was the acquisition of the Philippines good for the United States? The liability side of the ledger is clearest: the horrors of the war and the burdens of occupation. The islands were never great net boons to U.S. trade. Nor was Manila a key to the China trade. The U.S. position in the Philippines did extend American military power across the Pacific in a new and lasting way. In the short run, the United States used this base to help with the multinational intervention during the Boxer crisis of 1900 in China. But later that year, after the immediate crisis had passed, McKinley pulled most U.S. troops out of China, over the bitter objections of Secretary of State Hay. McKinley did not wish to use those troops as chess pieces in the great game over China’s future.[98] There would come a time, though, when the U.S. military presence in the Philippines did change the course of the history of the world. But no one in 1899 could foresee how the American presence in the islands would figure in the analysis of grand strategists in Tokyo, studying their options during 1941.     Philip Zelikow is the White Burkett Miller Professor of History at the University of Virginia.  He has also served at all levels of American government.  He began his professional career as a trial and appellate lawyer in Texas and, after returning to graduate school and then teaching for the Navy, he joined the Foreign Service and served as a career diplomat.  He was posted overseas and in Washington, including service on the National Security Council staff for President George H.W. Bush.  His Ph.D. is from Tufts University's Fletcher School.  Since leaving regular government service in 1991 he has taught and directed research programs at Harvard and at Virginia.  At Virginia he directed the Miller Center of Public Affairs from 1998 to 2005.  While there, he directed the 2001 commission on national election reform, chaired by former Presidents Carter and Ford, that led directly to passage of the bipartisan Help America Vote Act of 2002.  He returned to full-time government service from 2003 to 2004, to direct the 9/11 Commission and again from 2005 to 2007 to serve as Counselor of the Department of State, a deputy to Secretary Rice.  In later academic service at Virginia, Zelikow was the dean in charge of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (2011 to 2014).  He was a member of the President's Intelligence Advisory Board for President Bush (2001to 2003) and for President Obama (2011 to 2013) and a member of the Defense Policy Board (2015 to 2017).  He has also advised the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s program in global development (2007 to 2012). His books include Germany Unified and Europe Transformed: A Study in Statecraft (1995, with Condoleezza Rice); The Kennedy Tapes: Inside the White House during the Cuban Missile Crisis (2001, with Ernest May); Essence of Decision: Explaining the Cuban Missile Crisis (rev. ed., 1999, with Graham Allison); and America's Moment: Creating Opportunity in the Connected Age (2015, drafted on behalf of the Markle Foundation group, "Rework America"). ISSN (Print): 2576-1021 ISSN(Online): 2576-1153 Image: Cornell University Library [post_title] => Why Did America Cross the Pacific? Reconstructing the U.S. Decision to Take the Philippines, 1898-99 [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => america-cross-pacific-reconstructing-u-s-decision-take-philippines-1898-99 [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-01-17 13:39:24 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-01-17 18:39:24 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://tnsr.org/?p=284 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [lead] => A closer examination of what led President William McKinley to take the Philippines reveals a series of deliberate and thoughtful choices that have often been overlooked or ignored. [pubinfo] => [issue] => Vol 1, Iss 1 [quotes] => Array ( [0] => Array ( [author] => [style] => left [text] => Grand strategies do not typically arise from visionary thinking about the future. They arise instead from the collective experience of some great disturbance... ) [1] => Array ( [author] => [style] => right [text] => For McKinley, getting his War Department ready for war was a hard problem. ) [2] => Array ( [author] => [style] => left [text] => For decades Americans had been arguing about how to assert themselves in the world. ) [3] => Array ( [author] => [style] => right [text] => The proposal to give up the Philippines could not be seen as “coming from us.” ) [4] => Array ( [author] => [style] => left [text] => However, McKinley said he could no longer see how to return liberated Manila to Spain. ) [5] => Array ( [author] => [style] => right [text] => Yet there is not good evidence that such racial views were held by McKinley and his inner circle. ) [6] => Array ( [author] => [style] => right [text] => The months leading to war had taken a toll on McKinley. He seemed visibly careworn and losing sleep. ) [7] => Array ( [author] => [style] => left [text] => McKinley did not take the Philippine islands because he was confident that America would gain power or profit by it. ) ) [style] => scholarly [type] => Scholarly [style_label] => The Scholar [download] => Array ( [title] => PDF Download [file] => 458 ) [authors] => Array ( [0] => 102 ) [endnotes] => Array ( [title] => Endnotes [endnotes] => [1] Robin G. Collingwood, The Idea of History [1936-1940], edited by Jan van der Dussen (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994), 215; see also William Dray, History as Re-Enactment: R.G. Collingwood’s Idea of History (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995). "In imagining how things might have been different, the restrained counterfactualist tries to understand better what actually did happen." Allan Megill, Historical Knowledge, Historical Error: A Contemporary Guide to Practice (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007), 153. Following on work by James Fearon more than 20 years ago, there is also growing acceptance in political science that "[c]ounterfactuals can alert us to the possible operation of dynamics and pathways that we would otherwise be prone to ignore,” Robert Jervis, “Counterfactuals, Causation, and Complexity,” in Counterfactual Thought Experiments in World Politics, eds. Philip E. Tetlock and Aaron Belkin (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1996), 309-16. [2] Frank Hindman Golay, Face of Empire: United States-Philippine Relations, 1898-1946 (Madison: University of Wisconsin Center for Southeast Asian Studies, 1998), 443. From the 1920s until 1941, the U.S. Army’s top strategic planners had been pressing for a withdrawal from the Philippines and adoption of an Alaska-Hawaii-Panama defensive perimeter in the Pacific. Brian McAllister Linn, Guardians of Empire: The U.S. Army and the Pacific, 1902-1940 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1997), 182-83. [3] On this logic chain in the Japanese war planning, see, for example, Tsunoda Jun, “The Navy’s Role in the Southern Strategy,” trans. Robert Scalapino, in The Fateful Choice: Japan’s Advance into Southeast Asia, 1939-1941, ed. James William Morley (New York: Columbia University Press, 1980), 244-48. [4] George Herring, From Colony to Superpower: U.S. Foreign Relations Since 1776 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008), 320. [5] The original source is a 1903 article by James Rusling, recounting a meeting with President McKinley in November 1899. “Interview With President McKinley,” Christian Advocate, January 22, 1903. Rusling was no official; he had been at the White House with the General Missionary Committee of the Methodist Episcopal Church and years later wrote up what he recalled for a church newspaper. McKinley was a lifelong Methodist. He had hosted a substantial White House reception for the committee the previous evening and this committee of Methodist bishops and church leaders had come to see the president and deliver a formal resolution of thanks. According to Rusling, McKinley asked the committee to play a role helping the Army vet people being appointed as Methodist chaplains (one such had just been court-martialed for misconduct). Since the Philippines issue was then much in the news, McKinley added an explanation of the reasons for his decision, which he had made a year earlier. In Rusling’s account, it is impossible to tell whether the high religiosity and florid prose is Rusling’s gloss (it turns out that Rusling had a characteristic style in these things) or was the style McKinley chose to adopt for this particular group. It is certainly not the way McKinley spoke about these matters to his colleagues in government. Yet it is, of course, the florid style and the religiosity that have given the quote its persistent allure. There are much more contemporaneous and detailed accounts of McKinley explaining his reasons, displaying quite a mastery of the substance, without any such diverting artifice or haloed color. See Ephraim K. Smith, “‘A Question From Which We Could Not Escape’: William McKinley and the Decision to Acquire the Philippine Islands,” Diplomatic History 9, no. 4 (October 1985): 363-75; see also Lewis Gould, The Spanish-American War and President McKinley (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1982), 109. [6] Stanley Karnow, In Our Image: America’s Empire in the Philippines (New York: Random House, 1989), 108, 113. Karnow’s work is deservedly well-regarded. But, shaped by his own experience with the Vietnam War, Karnow also exemplifies the jaundiced mind-set. For background on the historiographical debate, see James Field Jr., “American Imperialism: The ‘Worst Chapter’ in Almost Any Book,” and comments by Walter LaFeber and Robert Beisner, American Historical Review 83 (June 1978): 644-83; and Ephraim Smith, “William McKinley’s Enduring Legacy: The Historiographical Debate on the Taking of the Philippine Islands,” in Crucible of Empire: The Spanish-American War and Its Aftermath, ed. James Bradford (Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 1993), 205-50. [7] The details of the Boston speech are all from a pamphlet prepared at the time that included photographs of the hall and the text of McKinley’s address as taken down by The Boston Globe. Souvenir of the Visit of President McKinley and Members of the Cabinet to Boston, February 1899 (Boston: Home Market Club, 1899). [8] Rep. Jeremiah Botkin, Congressional Record, April 12, 1898, 4149, 5151. [9] Another reason the war over Cuba is not mysterious is because the quality of historical work on the events leading to war is now very high. John Offner devoted much of his professional life to a thorough scouring of the evidence on both sides of the Atlantic. His account of the diplomacy and the run-up to the war is definitive. See John Offner, An Unwanted War: The Diplomacy of the United States & Spain Over Cuba, 1895-1898 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1992). [10] H. Wayne Morgan, William McKinley and His America (Kent: Kent State University Press, rev. ed., 2003), 26. The best biographies of McKinley are this one and the knowledgeable, beautifully written evocation by Margaret Leech, In the Days of McKinley (New York: Harper & Bros., 1959). Nick Kapur has placed McKinley’s character firmly in the Victorian cultural context (including that era’s ethic of exhibiting manliness with rationality and self-restraint, rather than strenuous demonstration) along with other aspects of his values, including the then-common belief in arbitration of international disputes. Nick Kapur, “William McKinley’s Values and the Origins of the Spanish-American War: A Reinterpretation,” Presidential Studies Quarterly 41, no. 1 (March 2011): 18-38 (though Kapur can’t resist the silly Rusling quote). [11] William Allen White, The Autobiography of William Allen White (New York: Macmillan, 1946), 333. [12] Karl Rove, The Triumph of William McKinley: Why the Election of 1896 Still Matters (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2015) offers the most detailed account of McKinley’s road to the candidacy, which was a much more challenging path than the one he faced in the general election against Bryan. The quote on McKinley’s reaction to the 1895 proposal conveyed by Hanna is on page 134. [13] Morgan, William McKinley, 210. [14] Hay to Adams, May 9, 1898, in Letters of John Hay, vol. 3 (New York: Gordian Press, 1969) (reprinting a privately printed collection of 1908), 122. [15] On the size of the U.S. Army, see Edward Coffman, The Regulars: The American Army, 1898-1941 (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2004), 3-4. Corbin quoted from his private autobiography, completed in 1906, 83 and 88, filed in the Corbin Papers, Box 11, Library of Congress. [16] John Davis Long, America of Yesterday: As Reflected in the Journal of John Davis Long, ed. Lawrence Shaw Mayo (Boston: The Atlantic Monthly, 1923), 168-69, 186, 188 (entries for April 25 and May 5, 1898). [17] The authoritative source is John A.S. Grenville, “American Naval Preparations for War with Spain, 1896-1898,” Journal of American Studies 2, no. 1 (April 1968): 33-47; see also John A.S. Grenville & George Berkeley Young, “The Influence of Strategy Upon History: The Acquisition of the Philippines,” in Politics, Strategy, and American Diplomacy: Studies in Foreign Policy, 1873-1917 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1966), 267-76. Grenville’s 1966 account is useful but was partly superseded once he discovered the work of the 1897 Sicard Board, as recounted in his 1968 article. See also David Trask, The War With Spain in 1898 (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1981), 77-78; and Mark Hayes, “War Plans and Preparations and Their Impact on U.S. Naval Operations in the Spanish-American War,” March 1998, available in the online reading room of the U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command (NHHC). [18] The quote is from the Sicard Board plan of June 1897. The Philippines operations are treated in just one paragraph in the plan. Grenville, “American Naval Preparations,” 43. [19] Seward Livermore, “American Naval-Base Policy in the Far East, 1850-1914,” Pacific Historical Review 13, no. 2 (June 1944): 113, 116; see also John Maurer, “Coal, Oil, and American Naval Strategy, 1898-1925,” Naval War College Review 34, no. 6 (November 1981): 60, 62. [20] Ronald Spector, Admiral of the New Empire: The Life and Career of George Dewey (Baton Rouge: LSU Press, 1974), 42-54. [21] See Grenville and Young, Politics, Strategy, and American Diplomacy, 276-78; Trask, The War With Spain, 80-81. On Long’s review of what Roosevelt had done, see Long, America of Yesterday, 168-70. [22] Long, America of Yesterday, 184; John Long to Agnes Long, October 9, 1898, Long Papers, Massachusetts Historical Society, vol. 79, 355-57; Whittlesey to Long, August 22, 1901, Spanish-American War — Battle of Manila Bay, NHHC (online document collection). [23] Dewey to Long, May 15, 1898, Spanish-American War — Blockade and Siege of Manila, NHHC (online document collection). [24] “If old Dewey …,” H.H. Kohlsaat, From McKinley to Harding: Personal Recollections of Our Presidents (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1923), 68. Kohlsaat was an old friend, owner of the Chicago Times-Herald. McKinley’s more serious explanation was recorded in a detailed handwritten memorandum written by Chandler Anderson immediately after a meeting with President McKinley on November 19, 1898. Anderson was an attorney, secretary to the Anglo-American Joint High Commission, which had recently been appointed to arbitrate various disputes embroiling the United States and Canada. In his meeting with McKinley, Anderson was accompanying one of the commissioners, an influential Boston Republican, Thomas Jefferson Coolidge. Anderson’s record of the meeting, in his papers at the Library of Congress, was discovered by Ephraim Smith, who reprinted the memo in full in his article “‘A Question From Which We Could Not Escape,’” 368-71 (quote on pages 369-70). [25] On the orders and the estimative process to arrive at troop numbers, see Merritt to McKinley, May 13, 1898; Merritt to Corbin, May 17; Miles to Alger, May 18, all in Department of the Army, Correspondence Relating to the War With Spain, vol. 2 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1902), 643-44, 648-49, 654, 665. [26] The framing of the expedition is handled well in Leech, In the Days of McKinley, 210-11. For the details see War Department memo for Alger for the Cabinet meeting, May 17, 1898, forwarded by Alger to Corbin on May 25; Adee to Alger, May 21 (conveying Dewey information on Spanish strength); Dewey to Long, May 27 (forwarded to Alger); Corbin to Merritt, May 29, in Army, Correspondence, vol. 2, 654, 665, 675, 680. [27] On the situation in Manila Bay and the danger of the Spanish expedition led by Adm. Camara, see Trask, The War With Spain, 372-81. [28] For example in 1895, during the administration of Grover Cleveland, there had been a brief scare about war with Great Britain because the British Empire was supposed to have been bullying Venezuela over a boundary dispute. The furor, ostensibly an invocation of the Monroe Doctrine, by which the United States opposed European imperial ventures in the Western Hemisphere, was more a complaint about supposed British haughtiness. Business and political leaders on both sides had intervened to calm the situation. But, as much as any other episode, it was the neurotic quality of this Venezuela crisis that caused one perceptive historian of the period, Richard Hofstadter, to shake his head about an apparent sort of national “psychic crisis.” Richard Hofstadter, “Cuba, the Philippines, and Manifest Destiny,” in The Paranoid Style in American Politics and Other Essays (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1965), 145-87. Kristin Hoganson recasts the psychic crisis as a gender crisis for males seeking martial tests to reaffirm their manhood. She is convincing that gendered insecurities were among the many insecurities of the age. But such insecurities were nonpartisan; they could be found on all sides of the war and expansion issues, and many who supported war in Cuba were against expansion. Her argument does not help much to explain the very specific choices made about the Philippines. Kristin Hoganson, Fighting for American Manhood: How Gender Politics Provoked the Spanish-American and Philippine-American Wars (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1998). Hofstadter’s essay is still a convincing general scene-setter for the period. The best analysis of American public opinion about imperial expansion in this period remains Ernest May, American Imperialism: A Speculative Essay (Chicago, Imprint Publications, rev. ed., 1991). It is a study of the origins and transmission belts for elite opinion. May shows an elite consensus against such expansion before the mid-1890s. The anti-expansionist consensus returned by the early 1900s. In between, the elites were split. This invited the wider public to pick a side. See also the cultural survey of Gilded Age attitudes toward the world thoroughly canvassed in Frank Ninkovich, Global Dawn: The Cultural Foundation of American Internationalism, 1865-1890 (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2009); and the fine period portrait in David Traxel, 1898: The Birth of the American Century (New York: Random House, 1998). [29] May, American Imperialism, 166. [30] Ernest May, Imperial Democracy: The Emergence of America as a Great Power (New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1961), 122-23. [31] “While we are conducting war …,” Charles Olcott, The Life of William McKinley, vol. 2 (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1916), 165. [32] Long, America of Yesterday, 183 (entry for April 20). [33]Corbin added that, after getting this letter, “while treating the General [Miles] with the consideration due his rank and position, [McKinley] never sought his advice and never gave it any weight when offered.” Autobiography, Corbin Papers, 88-89. [34] George Cortelyou journal entry, May 15, 1898, George Cortelyou Papers, Library of Congress. Cortelyou was McKinley’s main secretary, preparing and handling correspondence and paperwork. Cortelyou made his journal notes at the time in shorthand; they were typed up much later. [35] Leech, In the Days of McKinley, 232-38. [36] “Strong man,” Cortelyou Journal, Cortelyou Papers, June 17, 1898, Library of Congress. The Root quote is from Morgan, William McKinley, 210-11. Cortelyou commented to his diary that “The President is alert and when all the facts are known it will be seen how well he has kept the reins in his own hands.” Cortelyou Papers (entry for August 8). [37] Cortelyou Papers, April 16, 1898; for a contemporary and flattering biographical sketch of Day, see Henry McFarland, “William R. Day: A New Statesman of the First Rank,” Review of Reviews (U.S.) (September 1898): 275-79. [38] Moore impressed Long too. “The most accomplished man that has yet been connected with that Department,” he noted in his diary. Long, America of Yesterday, 189 (entry for May 6). [39] The question was posed to Hay on May 8 by Joseph Chamberlain, the very pro-American colonial secretary. Hay’s original message relaying the question did not name Chamberlain as the source; Day asked for this clarification and Hay provided it. See May, Imperial Democracy, 224; Offner, An Unwanted War, 198. [40] John Bassett Moore Papers, Box 192, Library of Congress. In early June, Moore wrote out a private memorandum for the record, preserved in his papers, in which he carefully recounted the chronology of the work on this peace move. [41] See Trask, The War With Spain, 172-73. [42] Moore Papers, Library of Congress, quoting from his private memorandum and from his appended copies of the “terms of peace” message from Day to Hay, June 3, 1898; Hay’s reply of June 6; and Day’s explanation to Hay, June 7. Had these terms been shared with other Cabinet members, such as Long, or had there been a Cabinet meeting on it, there would likely have been reference to it in one of the various diaries kept by Long, or by the Cabinet’s de facto secretary, Cortelyou, or by Charles Dawes, among others. Offner notes how the peace terms were separately provided to, and reported home by, the British ambassador in Washington, Sir Julian Pauncefote. An Unwanted War, 200. Offner does not discuss the extraordinary political risk McKinley had undertaken by secretly advancing such terms. Consciousness of this risk is obvious in Day’s June 7 message to Hay. To counter the image of a weak McKinley and show how assertive he was, Lewis Gould argues that the preparation of the Philippine expedition in May shows that from May 2 onward, McKinley never gave “serious consideration to relinquishing the archipelago.” Gould’s wish to rehabilitate McKinley’s leadership is a good one. But this particular argument is contradicted by the peace terms McKinley secretly outlined to the great powers, via Day, on June 3, and other episodes later. Gould is aware of some of this secret diplomacy but does not reconcile it with his argument. Gould, The Spanish-American War and President McKinley, 63. That McKinley would undertake such a move, at such risk, validates Gould’s argument about McKinley’s vigor, but in a different way. And McKinley was not nearly done musing about the future of the Philippines. [43] Lodge, replying to Roosevelt’s first letter on May 24, seemed confident that the administration was making due haste to send a large expedition to the Philippines, but Lodge said nothing about the future of the islands. He agreed about Puerto Rico — that is the context for his oft-quoted remark about the administration agreeing with his “large policy.” Henry Cabot Lodge and Charles Redmond, eds., Selections From the Correspondence of Theodore Roosevelt and Henry Cabot Lodge, 1884-1918, vol. 1 (New York: Da Capo, 1971, orig. 1925), 298-301. [44] Day to Hay, June 7, in Moore Papers. Hay passed along these cautions to the British prime minister, Lord Salisbury, who had already passed on the American peace terms to the Austrians having relied, Salisbury explained, on the parallel report he had received from Pauncefote about these terms. [45] Hay to McKinley, June 10, 1898, reprinted in Olcott, Life of McKinley, vol. 2, 131-32; Offner, An Unwanted War, 200-03; Trask, The War With Spain, 425-26, 607 note 6. [46] On the war developments in July 1898, the standard account remains Trask, The War With Spain. [47] Albert Shaw, “The Progress of the World,” Review of Reviews (U.S.) (June 1898): 643, 651-52. See also the articles on the Philippines that Shaw included in that issue. [48] John Foreman, “Spain and the Philippine Islands,” Contemporary Review (July 1, 1898): 20. There were hardly any books about the Spanish colony, only one comprehensive study having come out in the last 50 years. A few years later Foreman himself remedied this gap, publishing the most comprehensive study of the islands then available. The Philippine Islands (Shanghai: Kelly & Walsh, 3rd ed., 1906). Cortelyou recorded getting the full article for McKinley. The president had already been reading excerpts from it and wanted to see the rest. Cortelyou journal, August 1, 1898, in Cortelyou Papers. Foreman’s views were more nuanced and informed than those of American “experts” whose views were in wide circulation that summer. Of these the most prolific was a zoologist named Dean Worcester, who had made a scientific expedition to the Philippines during the early 1890s. Worcester offered vivid and extreme views of Spanish misrule and Filipino incapacity. See “Spanish Rule in the Philippines,” The Cosmopolitan, October 1897, 587 (written with his traveling companion, Frank Bourns, who would return to the Philippines with the Army expedition in 1898); “Admiral Dewey and the Philippines,” The Independent, May 12, 1898, 5; “In Manila: First Half,” The Independent, June 16, 1898, 5; “A Pen Picture of Manila,” New York Daily Tribune, June 24, 1898. Worcester would later be enlisted into U.S. administration of the islands. The recently departed, now returned, American consul in Manila, Oscar Williams, had been there only about a month. He also wrote of cruel and “barbarous” Spanish misdeeds and repeatedly extolled America’s opportunity to take over the islands. E.g., Williams to Day, May 12, June 16, and July 2, 1898, in U.S. Senate, Message From the U.S. President Transmitting a Treaty of Peace … and Accompanying Papers, 55th Congress, Senate Doc. 62, Part 2 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1899), 327-31 (hereafter cited as Peace Treaty Papers). [49] On the views of the naval minister, Alfred von Tirpitz, as characterized in the memoir of Foreign Minister (and later Chancellor) Prince Bernhard von Bulow, and the quote from an instruction to the German ambassador in Washington, see May, Imperial Democracy, 228-29. [50] Lord Rosebery, 1895, quoted in T.G. Otte, The China Question: Great Power Rivalry and British Isolation, 1894-1905 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007), 1. [51] Hay to McKinley, March 26, 1898, in Day Papers. This and other handwritten letters appear to have been turned over to Day after McKinley read them. [52] The British had made their request for joint action on China in early March 1898, conveyed directly by their ambassador to McKinley. Otte, The China Question, 112. [53] Hay to McKinley, June 30, 1898, in Day Papers. In his June 30 letter Hay commented that he was writing to McKinley in this way to avoid making an official record. In that era, all regular reports to the secretary of state (and the secretaries of war and the Navy) were usually published after a short interval. Hay wanted to keep the British request for joint action in China out of the official record so that an American rejection would not become public and thereby embarrass the British. The issue of American action to keep an open door in China would return to the agenda in 1899 and 1900. At that time — perhaps remembering the Monroe Doctrine example of John Quincy Adams in 1823 — Hay (by then the secretary of state) and McKinley would act unilaterally. They would also stress an interest in preserving an independent China from partition. That latter object was not so important to London. [54] Foreman, “Spain and the Philippine Islands,” 29-30; Shaw, “The Progress of the World,” 652-53. [55] See, e.g., Day to Pratt, June 16, 1898; Dewey to Long, June 27, 1898, both in William Day Papers, Library of Congress. [56] Lodge to Roosevelt, June 24, July 12, and July 23, 1898 (in the last, Lodge writing that the president’s “imagination is touched by the situation [in the Philippines], and I think he grasps it fully”), in Lodge and Redmond, eds., Selections From the Correspondence, 313, 323, 330. Roosevelt replied at one point that “the average New York [political] boss is quite willing to allow you to do what you wish in such trivial matters as war and the acquisition of Porto Rico and Hawaii, provided you don’t interfere with the really vital questions, such as giving out contracts for cartage in the Custom House and interfering with the appointment of street sweepers.” Roosevelt to Lodge, July 31, 1898, ibid., 334. On Lodge’s proposal to keep Luzon and make a deal with Britain for the rest, William Widenor, Henry Cabot Lodge and the Search for an American Foreign Policy (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1980), 115. [57] The naval moves and some of the diplomacy were evident. What the Americans did not know was that, in mid-August, the Germans began secret negotiations with the Spanish that would end with German acquisition of all the islands in the Spanish East Indies that the U.S. did not get under the peace treaty. In this fashion the Germans acquired the Caroline Islands, the Palau Islands, and the Marianas, except for Guam. This added to their already substantial Pacific possessions in New Guinea, the Marshall Island,s and the Bismarck Archipelago. See Pearle Quinn, “The Diplomatic Struggle for the Carolines, 1898,” Pacific Historical Review 14, no. 3 (September 1945): 290-302. [58] Day memo for the record, July 15, 1898, in Day Papers. [59] Hay to Day, July 28, 1898, in McKinley Papers, Library of Congress; Hay to Carnegie, August 22, 1898, Letters of John Hay, vol. 3, 129-30 (emphasis in original). [60] I do not count, and do not think anyone in Washington counted, the dispatches of Consul Williams (cited above) as a serious analysis of the situation. So far, Dewey had not offered any substantial assessments beyond the military strength of the Spanish forces. [61] On the Cabinet discussions, see Olcott, Life of William McKinley, vol. 2, 61-63; Offner, An Unwanted Peace, 213-17; Long, America of Yesterday, 210 (entry for July 27). Olcott based his account on interviews with several participants in the Cabinet meeting. The quote from the senator is from Olcott, as is the conclusion that the wait-for-more-information view was the one “which finally prevailed.” The evolution of the draft armistice terms was interesting. On his stationery, McKinley noted the essence of each planned term. For the article on the Philippines he scribbled: “The military possession of Manila city & port until a commission determines the whole matter as to [indecipherable, perhaps “the claims”] insurgents etc.” Moore then drafted an elaboration of this, saying the commissioners would figure out what the United States was “justly entitled” to have and “taking into consideration the rights and claims of the Philippine insurgents and any duty which the United States may be under to them and the future security and good government of the islands.” The language about U.S. entitlement and insurgent claims was lined out during the next edit. Then, after further discussion, the whole article was simplified to the form finally adopted, except that the word “disposition” was originally proposed as “possession.” The drafting process indicates the thrust of the discussion. Notes are in the Cortelyou Papers. McKinley’s key aide, Charles Dawes, debriefed by one of the Cabinet members, noted at the time in his diary, “the Philippines situation to be subject of consideration by a commission of Americans and Spaniards. While the President is very conservative in his belief as to the policy of handling the Philippines situation, he wants the facts to be carefully considered, without the consideration involving the loss of any present advantage.” Charles Dawes, A Journal of the McKinley Years, ed. Bascom Timmons (Chicago: Lakeside Press, 1950), 166. [62] For the other commissioners, McKinley initially started out with a list of conservatives, without any known jingoes already advocating acquisition of the Philippines. McKinley’s initial preferences, on July 31, were to supplement Day with William Allison (leader of the Republican Senate caucus), Supreme Court Justice Henry Brown, George Hoar (Massachusetts senator known to oppose expansion), and either Elihu Root (prominent New York lawyer), Chauncey Depew (a railroad magnate then seeking entry into public life), or a California Republican, George Gorham, to replace Hoar if Hoar was disqualified by his public stance. He was also considering his former ambassador to Spain, Stewart Woodford. Dawes, Journal, 167 (entry for July 31). The president did not fully revise these selections until more than a month later, in early September. It was then that he supplemented Day with three expansionists, though their specific views on the Philippines were still evolving: Whitelaw Reid (prominent editor, former minister to France and the 1892 Republican vice presidential candidate), Cushman Davis (senator and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee), and William Frye (another Republican senator). Then he added a conservative Democratic senator he respected, a known anti-annexationist, George Gray. [63] On Greene’s background, there are various stories in The New York Times and other papers, including his obituary published on May 16, 1921. Greene’s father was George Sears Greene, whose distinguished Civil War record included a critical role in the defense of Culp’s Hill on the second day of the Gettysburg battle. His brothers had distinguished records too; one was the executive officer of the USS Monitor. Francis Greene’s first book was F.V. Greene, The Russian Army and Its Campaigns in Turkey in 1877-1878 (New York: D. Appleton, 1879). Greene’s correspondence with Roosevelt is in Box 2 of the F.V. Greene Papers, New York Public Library. In one of these letters, Roosevelt wrote to Greene: “I don’t want Cuba. But in strict confidence (for to say this publicly would make me look like an Evening Post jingo) I should welcome almost any war, for I think the country needs one ….” He thought a war might come with Japan and “least improbable” was war with Spain. TR to Greene, September 23, 1897. Corbin’s comment on Greene is in the private autobiography, page 90, in Corbin Papers. [64] See Allen to Dewey, August 13, 1898; Dewey to Long, August 20, 1898, in Annual Reports of the Navy Department for the Year 1898, vol. 2: Appendix to the Bureau of Navigation report, 55th Congress, House Doc. No. 3 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1898), 122-23; Greene diary, Box 4, Greene Papers (entry of August 18 discusses the conference with Dewey and Merritt). [65] Greene diary, (entries for Augugst 25, 26, 28, 29, 30 and associated papers), Greene Papers. Greene’s well-connected associate is identified in his diary only as ALB, whom I have not been able to identify. Another source is a detailed private memoir of this part of Greene’s service, which he presented in 1915 as an address on “The Future of the Philippines” to the New York City Republican Club, also in his papers. Other sources: Army, Correspondence, vol. 2, 764-65; Dewey to Long, August 29, 1898, in Cortelyou Papers. Initially, Dewey told Greene that he was “greatly disturbed” that Greene would be leaving Manila, given the situation, but that he would ask Washington to place Greene in “supreme command” of the U.S. expedition in the Philippines. Just before Greene left, Dewey told Greene he had decided not to write a cable requesting that Greene be put in command of the Philippines (replacing Otis) “on account creating bad feeling in Army.” Greene diary. [66] Greene to Day, September 5, 1898, with Greene diary, Greene Papers. Greene preserved the original ciphered version, showing his work. It is reasonable to assume the message was received, at least by the recipient telegraph office, given the protocols of transmitting important cables in this era. I have not found this message in Day’s papers, but Day does not appear to have preserved unofficial messages of this kind. Greene had exchanged unofficial messages with Day the week before; those are not preserved in Day’s papers either. Assuming Day did receive the message, he would have shared it with McKinley. Based on Greene’s later discussions with McKinley at the end of September, Margaret Leech discussed how influential Greene was in her 1959 book, In the Days of McKinley, 331, 334-36. But later scholars touched lightly or not at all on his role, and neither she nor others had explored Greene’s papers. So, for example, Leech was not aware of this earlier message of September 5, which McKinley presumably knew about (along with Dewey’s August 29 cable) before he prepared instructions to the peace commissioners on September 16. [67] All quotations are from Whitelaw Reid’s diary. H. Wayne Morgan, ed., Making Peace With Spain: The Diary of Whitelaw Reid, September-December 1898 (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1965), 25, 28, 30-31 (entries for September 14 and 16). McKinley had recently made a similar comment to Cortelyou, that “the people could be trusted but were hasty and unreasonable some times … the clamor would soon be for the return of our troops from Porto Rico and Manila.” Cortelyou diary (entry for August 23), Cortelyou Papers. When McKinley put Reid on the peace commission, he may not have realized how expansionist Reid’s views had become.  His earlier public comments had emphasized “grave apprehensions” and been more ambivalent. Whitelaw Reid, “The Territory with Which We Are Threatened,” Century (September 1898): 788-794. In the instructions to commissioners Moore drafted them to say that the U.S. would “be content with” Luzon; Reid intervened to rewrite this as “cannot accept less” than Luzon. McKinley went along with this. But McKinley’s typed and annotated further suggestions, passed to Day, also mentioned that if territory were returned to Spain, “a guarantee of kindlier government to the people and of larger civil and religious liberty to the native population is important.” Day Papers. Many years later, Moore recalled McKinley’s “public spirit, courage, integrity, and delicate sense of honor.” Moore to Wilder Spaulding, August 17, 24, 28, 1940, Box 161, Moore Papers. [68] The interview is in “Failure for Agoncillo,” Chicago Daily Tribune, September 28, 1898, 7. As would be evident later, an American protectorate was an idea that Aguinaldo was ready to consider. Agoncillo had been learning from Greene too, during their trip, sharing a sense of mutual respect. But Agoncillo also was urging Aguinaldo to acquire all the arms he could, just in case. Agoncillo’s side of the story, including his reports to Aguinaldo, are discussed in the conscientious history later written by a descendant of his family, Teodoro Agoncillo, Malolos: The Crisis of the Republic (Quezon City: University of the Philippines Press, 1960), 321-28. [69] Greene diary (entries for September 27, 28, 29, 30; October 1, 3, 4); Greene, “The Future of the Philippines,” 11-12, 16, 18-19, Greene Papers. The five-page record of the Agoncillo-McKinley meeting is in the McKinley Papers, along with an accompanying memorandum Agoncillo presented. For Agoncillo’s papers forwarded by Greene, see Peace Treaty Papers, 429-31. For a sympathetic portrayal of Agoncillo (but with a number of inaccuracies), see Esteban De Ocampo with Alfredo Saulo, First Filipino Diplomat: Felipe Agoncillo (Manila: National Historical Institute, 1976), especially 82-87. [70] Greene, “The Future of the Philippines,” 17 (emphasis in original). This little memoir/address of 1915 was carefully prepared for a knowledgeable audience. One of McKinley’s more influential Cabinet members, former Attorney General John Griggs, was there. It is evident from the text that Greene, a professional engineer and sometime historian, drew from his contemporary notes and other documents in drafting this account. Ephraim Smith quotes the slip of paper where Greene listed these five options, but Smith believed they were part of his full report, which was then amended before being sent on to Paris. Smith, “‘A Question From Which We Could Not Escape,’” 372, note 25. Greene’s 1915 address explains that this was a separate document he had prepared just for McKinley. He had already cabled the essence of this argument to Day on September 5. [71] F.V. Greene, “Memoranda Concerning the Situation in the Philippines on August 30, 1898,” September 30, 1898, 35 (typescript with handwritten annotations), Cortelyou Papers. The report was sent to the commissioners and was included with the official documents in McKinley’s report to Congress accompanying the peace treaty. Peace Treaty Papers, 404-29. [72] Greene, “Memoranda,” 38, 41, 42, 44, 45, 46. Greene’s assessment of the views of the Filipino elite appears to have been accurate. See Teodoro Agoncillo, Malolos, 317-18, 327, 374-76. On the question of whether Luzon could be separated from the other islands, McKinley had also sought advice in a meeting with a well-placed shipping executive who knew the Pacific trade. He heard from this source that it was not feasible to take just Manila or Luzon because of Manila’s role as a hub in inter-island trade and tariff collection. Pierre Smith to McKinley, September 15, 1898, in Cortelyou Papers. [73] Greene, “The Future of the Philippines,” 20, Greene Papers. [74] Merritt’s testimony and the expert statements are in Peace Treaty Papers, 362-83 (including the separate written statements from Greene, Bourns and Bell), 441-71 (Foreman statement). For the way these views were summarized for McKinley, which is what is quoted in the text, see Day to Hay, October 7 (Commission report no. 3) and October 9, 1898 (Commission report no. 8), in Hay Papers, Library of Congress; see also Reid to McKinley, October 4; Reid to Hay, October 16, 1898 (letters that would have arrived at least a week later), in David Contosta and Jessica Hawthorne, eds., Rise to World Power: Selected Letters of Whitelaw Reid (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, 1986), 44-46. The reports coming in from Gen. Otis in Manila were also upbeat, more so than Dewey’s October 14 wire, discussed below. E.g., Otis to Corbin, October 19, 1898, in Cortelyou Papers. [75] The undated letter from Maj. Bourns is in the Cortelyou Papers, General Correspondence, quotes are from Pages 2 and 6 of the letter. The name and position of the author is penned on the last page, in what looks like McKinley’s handwriting. The letter opens to its unnamed addressee with the warning, “Will write a bit this morning about things political, but this must all be confidential and not under any circumstances for publication.” It will help to place Bourns a bit by understanding that in this era Army surgeons were major figures in the life of Army posts. They could have influence and relationships with commanders well beyond their formal rank. It is possible that Bourns knew Corbin or one of Corbin’s officers and that the letter was conveyed to McKinley through this back channel. Bourns had traveled to the Philippines in the early 1890s with Dean Worcester, whose tone in writing about Filipinos was more supercilious. The other Army officer Bourns referred to in his letter as really understanding Filipinos was Maj. J. Franklin Bell. Bell had become Merritt’s chief of intelligence, working beyond American lines and with the insurgents. Bell also provided a statement for the commissioners, cited above, and had worked with Greene. Bell would go on to become a major figure in the Philippine-American war and eventually rise to Army chief of staff. [76] Dewey to Long, October 14, 1898, in McKinley Papers (this appears to have been relayed to McKinley just after his departure on his trip). [77] Gould, The Spanish-American War and President McKinley, 104 and, for more details about this electoral trip and the themes McKinley emphasized, 103-06; see also “Philippines: President Determined to Demand Archipelago,” The New York Times, October 16, 1898, clipping in McKinley Papers. [78] See John Offner, “Imperialism by International Consensus: The United States and the Philippine Islands,” in Daniela Rossini, ed., From Theodore Roosevelt to FDR: Internationalism and Isolationism in American Foreign Policy (Staffordshire: Keele University Press, 1995), 45-54; for more on the Spanish view of the negotiation, also see Offner, “The Philippine Settlement: The United States, Spain, and Great Britain in 1898,” in Luis Gonzalez Vales, ed., 1898: Enfoques y Perspectivas (San Juan: Academia Puertorriquena de la Historia, 1997), 353-70. [79] Long quoted in Trask, The War With Spain, 466. For McKinley’s instructions: Hay to Day, October 28, 1898, in State Department reports, Papers Relating to the Treaty With Spain, 56th Congress, 2nd session, Senate Doc. No. 148 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1899), 37-38. The instructions had already been drafted by McKinley (a handwritten draft is in his papers) for Hay to send when the cabled recommendations of the commissioners began coming in. Hay held off on sending the instructions until McKinley had read the recommendations. Hay to McKinley, October 27, 1898, in McKinley Papers. But there is no sign that McKinley materially changed the substance of his original draft. A draft October 26 instruction, included mistakenly in the 1898 FRUS volume and often quoted by historians, was in fact not the one that McKinley sent. Richard Leopold, “The Foreign Relations Series: A Centennial Estimate,” Mississippi Valley Historical Review 49, no. 4 (March 1963): 595, 598-99 no. 12. Three of the commissioners had recommended taking all the islands. Not knowing his president’s wishes, Day had held to the original view of no more than Luzon, but it seems evident that Day’s views were evolving to the necessity of taking most of the archipelago. Sen. Gray dissented, arguing that the United States had neither duty nor interests in holding any of the islands. See Peace Commissioners to Hay, October 25, 1898, in State Department reports, Papers Relating to the Treaty, 32-36; Morgan, Making Peace With Spain, 88-89 (entry for October 19). [80] Interview with President McKinley, November 19, 1898, Anderson Papers, in Smith, “‘A Question From Which We Could Not Escape,’” 369-70. [81] Japan took control of these German island possessions as a result of World War I. The United States would face the consequences of Japanese control of these island chains during World War II. [82] On the variety of elite opinion and arguments in the treaty debate, see May, American Imperialism, 192-206; David Healy, U.S. Expansionism: The Imperialist Urge in the 1890s (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1970).  On the pro-expansion view of many reformers, see William Leuchtenburg, “Progressivism and Imperialism: The Progressive Movement and American Foreign Policy, 1898-1916,” Mississippi Valley Historical Review 39, no. 3 (December 1952): 483-504. An interesting example is the position of Woodrow Wilson, who by 1898 was a prestigious academic commentator on American government. Breaking with some of his fellow Democrats, Wilson publicly argued that the United States had the duty to take the Philippines (and Hawaii) in order to prevent other colonial powers from taking them. In 1901 Wilson argued, in The Atlantic, that Americans should help “undeveloped peoples, still in the childhood of their natural growth … inducting them into the rudiments of justice and freedom.” John Milton Cooper Jr., Woodrow Wilson: A Biography (New York: Knopf, 2009), 75-76. [83] David Healy, The United States in Cuba 1898-1902 (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1963), 167. Paul Holbo had long ago noted that McKinley had headed off would-be Cuban annexationists even before war broke out and that, “The pattern established in Cuba was important.  [McKinley] subsequently pursued a virtually identical course in dealing with the Philippine Islands.” Paul Holbo, “Presidential Leadership in Foreign Affairs: William McKinley and the Turpie-Foraker Amendment,” American Historical Review 72, no. 4 (July 1967): 1321, 1334. In his Cuba Between Empires 1878-1902 (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1983), 212-327, 368-70, Louis Perez, Jr. concentrates, convincingly, on the annexationist intentions of key Americans such as Gen. Leonard Wood. But his story also reveals the constant disappointment and frustration of Wood and his annexationist allies. The Cubans had something to do with Wood’s disappointment. So did McKinley. [84] Corbin to Otis, relaying McKinley’s instructions of December 21, sent December 27, 1898, in Army, Correspondence, 858-59. “Although the butt of many a sardonic comment, McKinley’s ‘benevolent assimilation’ policy was of vital importance,” Brian Linn has argued. It “established conciliation as the cornerstone of military policy in the Philippines.” Brian McAllister Linn, The Philippine War, 1899-1902 (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2000), 30-31. [85] Jacob Gould Schurman, Philippine Affairs: A Retrospect and Outlook (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1902), 2-4; Schurman to McKinley, January 11, 1899; Schurman to Alonzo Cornell, January 12, 1899, in Schurman Papers, Cornell University. The other commissioners coming from the United States were Charles Denby, who been the U.S. minister in China for 12 years and Dean Worcester, who had already been writing on the topic, a University of Michigan professor who had lived in the Philippines during the early 1890s. The remaining commissioners would be Dewey and Gen. Otis. For more on Worcester, who had been quite active calling for American acquisition of the Philippines, see Peter Stanley, “‘The Voice of Worcester Is the Voice of God’: How One American Found Fulfillment in the Philippines,” in Stanley, ed., Reappraising an Empire: New Perspectives on Philippine-American History (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1984), 117-42. [86]For a similar account, from Agoncillo’s side, see Teodoro Agoncillo, Malolos, 357-59. Earlier, in December 1898, Aguinaldo had signaled his openness to an American protectorate of a Filipino republic, without clarifying the inherent tension between the responsibilities of a protectorate and the nature of independence. One Filipino scholar has therefore criticized Agoncillo for not sending along the American assurances he received from Greene, arguing that such assurances could have avoided the outbreak of conflict in February 1899. H.A. Villanueva, “A Chapter of Filipino Diplomacy,” Philippine Social Science and Humanities Review 17, no. 2 (June 1952): 121, 123. Teodoro Agoncillo disagreed, regarding such a conflict as inevitable and appropriate. Malolos, 710-11 note 97. By the end of 1898 Greene had been promoted to major-general and put in command of a division in Cuba, but his service there had then not been needed. Greene was very impressed by the difficulty the Americans would have faced if they had assaulted Havana. As Greene returned to civilian life, McKinley had another long meeting with him at the end of December. Greene, “The Future of the Philippines,” 12-15, 20 (reading in part from Greene to Hay, February 3, 1900), in Greene Papers. See also “History of Manila Trouble,” Chicago Daily Tribune, February 5, 1899, 1. [87] See Leech, In the Days of McKinley; Corbin, private autobiography; and Long, America of Yesterday. [88] Frank Ninkovich has a thoughtful study of the spectrum of American attitudes at the time about race and foreign cultures in Global Dawn, 137-231. [89] On the suggestion to rely on Bourns, see Corbin to Otis, December 30, 1898, at Army, Correspondence, 864-65. The reports from Otis had been deceptively reassuring. He reported that the “great majority of men of property desire annexation.” Though many others sought plunder, the insurgents were divided and quarreling. There was much “suppressed excitement,” but Otis was confident his troops “can meet emergencies.” If the excitement could remain suppressed for a few days, “believe that affairs will greatly improve.” Conditions were “improving. Incendiarism and mob violence in city all that is feared.” Otis thought the insurgents wanted “qualified independence under United States protection.” The excitement was diminishing. There was “more moderation in demands.” E.g., Otis to Corbin, December 22, 30, 1898; Alger to Otis, December 30, 1898; Corbin to Otis, January 1, 1899; Otis to Corbin, January 2, 8; Corbin to Otis relaying personal message from McKinley, January 8; Otis to Corbin, January 10, 11, 14, 16 and 27, in Army, Correspondence, 860, 864-66, 872-73, 876-80, 888. [90] Cortelyou diary (entry for February 4, 1899), Cortelyou Papers. [91] On the “conservative men” in the Senate and their decisive role, May, Imperial Democracy, 261. [92] Souvenir of the Visit of President McKinley and Members of the Cabinet to Boston, February 1899. [93] On the failed peace efforts of March to June 1899 see Agoncillo, Malolos, 398-405, 515-18 (describing the strength of Filipino leaders who favored a conciliatory peace based on “autonomy”); Golay, Face of Empire, 48-51; see also Karnow, In Our Image, 150-53, 156; and, on the quarrels within the Schurman commission, engineered (in his telling) by Dean Worcester, see Stanley, “‘The Voice of Worcester,’” 128-30. Filipino historians tend to interpret the internal Filipino struggles as a class conflict between the land-owning, educated, and privileged class, which wished to get or maintain power, and the frustrations of the illiterate and impoverished peasant masses. The interests of the revolutionary peasant masses are associated by these historians with the more warlike revolutionary leader Apolinario Mabini. Those favoring peace and more willing to work with the Americans are associated with the educated or privileged ilustrado elite. Aguinaldo is portrayed trying, impossibly, to balance and lead both factions. From this view, the privileged elite “emerged as the true victors in the Philippine revolution, politically, socially and economically.” Milagros Camayon Guerrero, Luzon at War: Contradictions in Philippine Society, 1898-1902 (Quezon City: Anvil Publishing, 2015), 164; see also Teodoro Agoncillo (an admirer of Mabini who attacks the “plutocrats” who were willing to settle for autonomy), Malolos, 463-64, 483-89. [94]Although he sides with those who fought for complete independence, Teodoro Agoncillo acknowledges that such a fight had little chance of success, given the divided views among Filipinos themselves. Malolos, 662-68. McKinley soon overhauled the War Department. He dismissed Alger. Greene was put forward as a candidate for secretary of war by Theodore Roosevelt, who advocated for Greene “with all the force characteristic of him.” But McKinley had already settled on Elihu Root, a much-admired New York lawyer whom McKinley thought might have the breadth to take on these new tasks in Cuba and the Philippines. Roosevelt later suggested that Greene should replace Otis as commander in the Philippines. But McKinley thought it would undermine the war effort to replace Otis mid-campaign. On the selection of Root, “a man of strangely strong analytical and judicial mind” who “could more thoroughly analyze a problem of government than any man I have ever known,” and Roosevelt’s push for Greene, see private autobiography of Corbin, 99-101, in Corbin Papers. On the idea of Greene replacing Otis, see Roosevelt to Hay, cc’d to Greene, July 1, 1899; Roosevelt to Greene, July 10, 1899 (McKinley spoke “most warmly” of you, but …), in Greene Papers. Greene returned to business and history writing. His last major stint in public service was a year as the New York City police commissioner. [95] The most thorough account now is Linn, The Philippine War. For an earlier and more negative appraisal see Stuart Creighton Miller, “Benevolent Assimilation”: The American Conquest of the Philippines, 1899-1903 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1982). [96] Olcott, Life of McKinley, vol. 2, 174-75 (based on Olcott’s interviews with Taft and Day); see Corbin autobiography, 101, Corbin Papers. In 1902 Schurman came out strongly advocating setting an early fixed date for Philippine independence. See generally Kenneth Hendrickson Jr., “Reluctant Expansionist: Jacob Gould Schurman and the Philippine Question,” Pacific Historical Review 36, no. 4 (November 1967): 405-21. Day would go on to serve as an associate justice on the U.S. Supreme Court. After becoming president of the United States, Taft would later rejoin Day on the bench when he became the Supreme Court’s chief justice. [97] For a critical modern appraisal of the U.S. nation-building efforts, see Peter Stanley, A Nation in the Making: The Philippines and the United States, 1899-1921 (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1974). For a somewhat more generous appraisal, though focused only on the period of military government, see John Gates, Schoolbooks and Krags: The United States Army in the Philippines, 1898-1902 (New York: Praeger, 1973). Neither book attempts much comparative reflection on the range of possibilities presented by the course of national development in other nations that won liberation from Spanish rule during the 19th century. Historians of Latin American liberation would quickly recognize the familiar patterns of collaboration between American and Filipino elites and the stereotyping of good and “savage” segments of the population by the ruling elites of both countries, which is the pattern portrayed in Paul Kramer, The Blood of Government: Race, Empire, the United States, and the Philippines (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2006).Filipinos ended up constructing “a unique economic system, crony capitalism, that depended on privileged access to United States markets, aid, and multilateral lending.” Filipinos did a very good job of figuring out how to manipulate U.S. policies to their advantage. Nick Cullather, Illusions of Influence: The Political Economy of United States-Philippine Relations, 1942-1960 (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1994), 3. Cullather is right, except that such systems of crony capitalism are hardly “unique” to the Philippines case. [98] Betty Talbert, “The Evolution of John Hay’s China Policy,” unpublished Ph.D. diss., 1974, 304-14; see also Kenton Clymer, John Hay: The Gentleman as Diplomat (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1975), 151. ) [contents] => Array ( [title] => [contents] => ) ) ) [post_count] => 3 [current_post] => -1 [in_the_loop] => [post] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 1862 [post_author] => 102 [post_date] => 2019-09-10 05:00:14 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-09-10 09:00:14 [post_content] => Policymaking is a discipline, a craft, and a profession. Policymakers apply specialized knowledge — about other countries, politics, diplomacy, conflict, economics, public health, and more — to the practical solution of public problems. Effective policymaking is difficult. The “hardware” of policymaking — the tools and structures of government that frame the possibilities for useful work — are obviously important. Less obvious is that policy performance in practice often rests more on the “software” of public problem-solving: the way people size up problems, design actions, and implement policy. In other words, the quality of the policymaking. Like policymaking, engineering is a discipline, a craft, and a profession. Engineers learn how to apply specialized knowledge — about chemistry, physics, biology, hydraulics, electricity, and more — to the solution of practical problems. Effective engineering is similarly difficult. People work hard to learn how to practice it with professional skill. But, unlike the methods taught for engineering, the software of policy work is rarely recognized or studied. It is not adequately taught. There is no canon or norms of professional practice. American policymaking is less about deliberate engineering, and is more about improvised guesswork and bureaucratized habits. My experience is as a historian who studies the details of policy episodes and the related staff work, but also as a former official who has analyzed a variety of domestic and foreign policy issues at all three levels of American government, including federal work from different bureaucratic perspectives in five presidential administrations from Ronald Reagan to Barack Obama. From this historical and contemporary vantage point, I am struck (and a bit depressed) that the quality of U.S. policy engineering is actually much, much worse in recent decades than it was throughout much of the 20th century. This is not a partisan observation — the decline spans both Republican and Democratic administrations. I am not alone in my observations. Francis Fukuyama recently concluded that, “[T]he overall quality of the American government has been deteriorating steadily for more than a generation,” notably since the 1970s. In the United States, “the apparently irreversible increase in the scope of government has masked a large decay in its quality.”[1] This worried assessment is echoed by other nonpartisan and longtime scholars who have studied the workings of American government.[2] The 2003 National Commission on Public Service observed,
The notion of public service, once a noble calling proudly pursued by the most talented Americans of every generation, draws an indifferent response from today’s young people and repels many of the country’s leading private citizens. … The system has evolved not by plan or considered analysis but by accretion over time, politically inspired tinkering, and neglect. … The need to improve performance is urgent and compelling.[3]
And they wrote that as the American occupation of Iraq was just beginning. In this article, I offer hypotheses to help explain why American policymaking has declined, and why it was so much more effective in the mid-20th century than it is today. I offer a brief sketch of how American education about policy work evolved over the past hundred years, and I argue that the key software qualities that made for effective policy engineering neither came out of the academy nor migrated back into it. I then outline a template for doing and teaching policy engineering. I break the engineering methods down into three interacting sets of analytical judgments: about assessment, design, and implementation. In teaching, I lean away from new, cumbersome standalone degree programs and toward more flexible forms of education that can pair more easily with many subject-matter specializations. I emphasize the value of practicing methods in detailed and more lifelike case studies. I stress the significance of an organizational culture that prizes written staff work of the quality that used to be routine but has now degraded into bureaucratic or opinionated dross. Many former officials share such concerns, as will become apparent.[4] My suggestions use a relatively simple template, making it easy for people to learn and use it. But, as in engineering, knowing the steps for good policy design is much simpler than implementing them in professional practice. That is why in-depth case work in training and a strong organizational culture in practice are so important, and so difficult. Of course, some will point to dysfunction in the hardware of American politics and policy as a cause of the decline in policymaking prowess. But whatever the other issues, surely part of the solution to improving American policymaking must include better performance in analyzing, crafting, and implementing solutions to public problems.

Policymaking: Hardware vs. Software

The software of substantive public problem-solving overlaps with the formal procedures of government, but it is really a different subject. The software of policy is about how policies are crafted within a given set of processes and constraints. Software includes methods or routines for the way the substantive work is done, at the level of the individual professional and the institution. At every stage, the software includes organizational cultures for getting and evaluating information, for doing analysis, and for recording what is being done. By contrast, the tools and structures that frame the possibilities for useful work may be described as the hardware of policymaking. Explanations for failures of policy tend to focus on the structure of government. While hardware constraints are real, in my experience, problems often have at least as much to do with bad software. Good software is also one of the few defenses against bad hardware. For instance, amid all the public controversies about law in America, the United States still does reasonably well upholding the rule of law and the administration of justice. Why? One reason is because the American legal profession has established very strong norms about what constitutes appropriate legal reasoning and quality legal research and writing. This is software. [quote id="1"] Such norms are no sure cure for partisanship, caprice, incompetence, and corruption. But, in the American legal world, generally accepted norms for legal research and writing do help constrain excesses, clarify arguments and evidence, and expose sloppy work. They provide a common vocabulary for evaluation and analysis. In American public policy design, however, there are no comparable norms that distinguish professional craft. There is no commonly understood set of habits that routinely force out necessary questions and naturally highlight gaps in information or analysis. Good software, rigorous training, and strong organizational culture can decisively improve performance. One of the more interesting social-science experiments ever conducted for policy work, the University of Pennsylvania and U.C.-Berkeley’s “Good Judgment Project” led by Philip Tetlock, Barbara Mellers, and Don Moore, funded by the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity, ran from 2011 to 2015. It included work from more than 25,000 forecasters making more than a million predictions about world developments. The study’s basic conclusions: “First, talented generalists often outperform specialists in making forecasts. Second, carefully crafted training can enhance predictive acumen. And third, well-run teams can outperform individuals.”[5] Consider that an illustration of what is possible in just one facet of work.

Preparing to Make Policy

Bad policymaking is almost unavoidable when policymakers undertake complex and difficult work without adequate training or preparation. Unfortunately, a lack of adequate training or preparation seems to be the norm among American policymakers today. Why? I offer three premises: First, general training among senior and mid-level policy professionals is radically insufficient to prepare them to do action-focused analysis and assessment, high-quality written policy design work, and adaptive, people-centered implementation. Usually this training simply does not exist. Second, whatever the talents of individual politicians or officials or commentators, they will remain idiosyncratic unless the craft is institutionalized in a canon of professional education and the related ideas are better understood. Third, even if certain professional or graduate schools (e.g., in public policy, law, political science, or economics) had an effective canon of this kind, which I believe they do not, such programs — as currently configured — simply will not reach, or are effectively unavailable, to the large majority of people who will find themselves actually filling most senior and mid-level policy jobs. Modern American political history offers support for these premises, as I outline below. As this sketch reveals, the best practices that made the software of American policymaking successful in the mid-20th century neither came out of the academy nor migrated back into it. They were never adequately turned into canonical methods, “carefully crafted training,” or an organizational culture of well-run analytical teams.

A Brief History of Preparing Policymakers

American education for public service “has differed from such education in most if not all other parts of the world.”[6] Outside of the Army and Navy, the notion of professional “careers” in public service did not emerge in America until the late 19th century. The passage of the Pendleton Act in 1883 created the first national civil service in America and many states adopted similar reforms. These laws required competitive examinations for entry into public service — although the educational levels required were not high. Basic literacy and numeracy were desired, as was some knowledge of accounting and some constitutional history. A loosely defined field of “public administration” arose during the early 20th century. The impetus for it was a delayed reaction to the rapid urbanization of America, one of the great social upheavals in the history of the country. The field of public administration combined general administrative skills and knowledge (e.g., finance, accounting, personnel management), relevant technical knowledge (e.g., hydrology, criminology), and some knowledge about emerging social sciences. The Training School for Public Service, founded in 1911, was typical among pioneering public administration institutions. At first not associated with any university, it was instead part of the New York Bureau of Municipal Research, founded in 1906. In 1931, the Training School in New York City broke up. Part of it went to Columbia University and part to the important Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University, which was founded in 1924 with six public administration students. The Woodrow Wilson School was established at Princeton University in 1930. In Washington, DC, Robert Brookings founded a research institute and graduate school in the early 1920s, later reduced just to research. Between 1914 and 1930, several dozen institutions created small programs in public or municipal administration.[7] Diplomacy escaped all formal professionalization until early in the 20th century. Diplomats, as distinct from consuls, did not begin to have to pass examinations until the mid-1920s. “Then, as now, many of the higher diplomatic posts remained ‘spoils.’”[8] In the United States, expertise in statecraft was often equated with experience in the principles and practice of international law. To foster its study, the American Society of International Law was founded in 1906. Some indication of the society’s stature can be gathered from noting that its first president was Elihu Root (1906–24), who had been Theodore Roosevelt’s secretary of war and then secretary of state. When Root stepped down, his place was taken by the then-secretary of state (and future chief justice of the Supreme Court), Charles Evans Hughes (1924–29). In those years, the society regularly held meetings at the White House and was addressed by the president. In addition to skill in the practice of international law, skill in foreign policy work was also often associated with the knowledge of international business. Familiarity with diplomatic history was a plus, as was knowledge of foreign languages, geography, and culture. The new law schools could well have become a broader base for training policymakers. But the formative ones, such as Harvard Law under Dean Christopher Langdell, sought to foster as their distinct intellectual identity a new science of legal thinking, its principles to be discovered through the study of cases. In this context, “administrative law” became a field within law schools, conceived of as an effort to decode the legal principles that guided court review of administrative decisions.[9] Very early, the public administration schools moved away from older styles of training in governing philosophies, political thought, and civic virtue, the kinds of educations urged by men like Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Abraham Lincoln, or John Stuart Mill. Like the founders of American political science, these academic leaders thought such educational agendas were old-fashioned and too concerned with formal structures. Instead, the new leaders of these schools wanted to move beyond discussions of political philosophy and civic virtue. They wanted to build policies on the scientific study of social conditions and political behavior. They hoped that “scientific — ‘what is’ — studies would replace public-spirited — ‘what should be’ — studies.” Their argument was that by understanding the sociology of criminal behavior, the economics of labor unrest, the public health of cities, or the patterns of behavior among elected officials, there would be a scientific basis for action, and that this was better than just a lot of nostalgic, virtuous philosophizing.[10] This model for a school of public administration added some value. Various disciplines gathered valuable information about social conditions and theories about social behavior. Public administration was then informed by such knowledge. But neither the early schools, like Maxwell, nor the emerging discipline of “political science,” developed a canon for how best to apply scientific knowledge to higher-level policy design.[11] [quote id="2"] Political science was built up as a discipline to consider policymakers objectively, as objects of study. Such scientists view the behavior of policymakers much as entomologists view the behavior of insects. Neither set of scientists are necessarily concerned with giving “how to” advice to their subjects. In saying this, I am not trying to join a culture war decrying the relevance of social science. I simply observe the way such scientists tend to formulate their problems and questions, which then affects everything else. Much of the debate about relevance in those disciplines is a supply-side argument: that if they produced different scholarship, such work would be more influential. My argument in this article is different. It is a demand-side argument. It is that, as the software of policy work has deteriorated, the people doing policy work no longer do the analysis — or articulate the questions — to seek out and use relevant knowledge, whatever its source. I think it will be most impactful to fix the demand side of the problem. The Golden Age of American Policymaking Policy staff work of all kinds achieved a relative high point with the crises of the 1940s. The craft and discipline of policymaking was already surging because of the public responses to the Great Depression. But World War II produced a vast mobilization of talent to tackle a staggering array of military, economic, and governance problems. The Allied successes included extremely high-quality policy work on grand strategy, logistics, and problem-solving of every kind. The German and Japanese high commands were comparably deficient in all these respects.[12] Paul Kennedy calls this software advantage the “most important variable of all.” Analytically, he noticed “a support system, a culture of encouragement, efficient feedback loops, a capacity to learn from setbacks, an ability to get things done.” All of this could permit “the middlemen in this grinding conflict the freedom to experiment, to offer ideas and opinions, and to cross traditional institutional boundaries.”[13] From these tremendous accomplishments, I note five observations: First, no one should overly romanticize the often quarrelsome, wasteful, and chaotic world of Washington during these years. There were many mistakes, some of them deadly and disastrous. Nor did the skills come from a well-thought-through template of the kind proposed in this paper. They emerged piecemeal from vast and stressful experience, amid plenty of bureaucratic rivalry and confusion. Second, the experience arose from years of trial and error in managing the most challenging rival sets of claims and arguments on a global scale. With their long experience in doing this, including the challenges of managing resources, shipping, and manpower, the British staffing systems were the most evolved. British staffing practices were envied and then emulated by the Americans. Third, the relevant qualities did not, by and large, migrate from the American universities. Nor did the qualities migrate back to them. Fourth, the relevant qualities did emerge from some distinctive cultures and leaders. One big tributary was the very strong, decentralized problem-solving culture of American business in the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s.[14] In that era, the paradigmatic discipline of American business and industry was engineering, and the paradigmatic figure was that of the ingenious tinkerer who deeply understood both design and production and knew his way around the shop floor. Bill Knudsen at General Motors, who started his career in bicycle and auto parts, and as a builder of steam engines, was a typical and well-known exemplar. Another great tributary was the managerial culture inside the armed forces, fostered by specific individuals. The military leaders during the war who set the tone for the high-level staff work were strategic managers — men like George C. Marshall or the civilian resource manager, Ferdinand Eberstadt, rather than “warriors” like Douglas MacArthur. It was no accident that Marshall elevated his most trusted staffer and planner in 1942, Dwight Eisenhower, to top command. Marshall and Eisenhower had strong views about the organizational culture of effective policymaking. Underperforming staff officers or program managers were frequently relieved and reassigned. Fifth, the wartime and immediate postwar experience profoundly influenced organizational culture for another generation or so. A great many Americans had been drawn into the work of higher-level policy design on numerous topics. “One analyst referred to [the war] as the largest program in postdoctoral education for faculty in the nation’s history.” There was a similar impact on the nation’s lawyers.[15] The breadth of experience summed up by these five observations about policy culture and staff work carried over into postwar efforts. In 1947, as secretary of state, Marshall used his first national radio address to the American people to remind them that, “Problems which bear directly on the future of our civilization cannot be disposed of by general talk or vague formulae – by what Lincoln called ‘pernicious abstractions.’ They require concrete solutions for definite and extremely complicated questions.”[16] The military and business cultures of the United States in this period were intensely oriented toward practical problem-solving. They emphasized meticulous written staff work: unending flows of information and estimates, habitual preparation of meeting records or minutes, constant and focused debates about priorities and tradeoffs, and guidance directives drafted with concise precision that a lawyer would envy. The result, especially by 1943 and afterward, was marked in dozens of projects from the atom bomb to the Marshall Plan to the Berlin Airlift. Any close study of such efforts reveals superior construction of large-scale, complex multi-instrument policy packages, including frequent adjustments. The point about constant adjustment and iteration is notable. Even in military technology, most of the key Allied innovations turned out to be second-generation innovations. In other words, they were not the airplanes or ships that were available or in production at the start of the war. Instead, they were new or improved models of every kind, several of which had not even been imagined before the war. They were developed with agility and on a massive scale by a number of agencies and scores of companies in response to ongoing lessons learned, lessons that were constantly, consciously being extracted and studied. It is difficult for those who have not pored through the archives to appreciate the scale and scope of this work, ranging from economic statecraft to amphibious operations to science policy. The extraordinary sets of official history volumes from World War II, familiar to historians of the period, give a sense for the work. They are also a striking illustration of the organizational culture that would produce such meticulous and admirable historical analyses. The organizational culture that accomplished so much during the war was passed along mainly through imitation and apprenticeship. But the best practices did not migrate into standardized training or academic degree programs. The Microeconomic Turn The mid-20th-century academic paradigm of policymaking assumed a relatively neat separation between “policy” on the one hand (often equated with lawmaking) and “administration” on the other, presumably informed by good social science. By the 1960s, this older paradigm seemed more and more out of date. Although intellectuals recognized the huge intermediate space that was being filled by policymaking, academia had trouble figuring out how to teach it. Older public administration programs suffered an institutional identity crisis. The private foundations that had helped build up that field in the 1930s lost interest. The field of public administration fell into lower repute as compared with the rising social sciences. Partly in response, a new trend in public policy education took shape. The social sciences were developing new techniques for the systematic analysis of public policies using analytic models, many derived from economic theory, along with quantitative methods. The federal government was pouring money not only into the expansion of government services, but also into training programs. In 1958, the Government Employees Training Act became law, while grants from the Civil Service Commission helped to subsidize large numbers of mid-career students. Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School was transformed by a 1965 gift from Charles and Marie Robertson. In 1968, the University of Michigan converted its public administration institute into an institution for “public policy studies.” Also in 1968, Harvard scrapped its former school of public administration, established a new John F. Kennedy School of Government, and developed an entirely new academic program for it. During that same academic year, the University of California created a new Graduate School of Public Policy at its flagship Berkeley campus, awarding a new “public policy” degree to replace its earlier offering in public administration. [quote id="3"] Dedicating one of the new buildings at the Woodrow Wilson School in May 1966, President Lyndon Johnson proclaimed that “the public servant today moves along paths of adventure where he is helpless without the tools of advanced learning.” He said the country would need “enormous new drafts of trained manpower into the public service.” A presidential task force recommended new programs to train these “enormous new drafts.” Foundations like Carnegie and Ford took on the role that the Social Science Research Council had played in an earlier generation. All this momentum produced one of the most significant changes in professional higher education of that generation. “At the heart of this shift [during the 1960s and early 1970s] was a growing faith in the power and prestige of economics as a field, a method, and even a science.” For instance, “in and around Robert McNamara’s Department of Defense, economists put into practice techniques of program analysis and benefit-cost measurement, which President Lyndon Johnson then forced on all domestic departments involved in building his Great Society.” One scholar involved in this shift recalled
visiting the office of a cabinet secretary in order to explain to him a several-hundred-page booklet on policy planning budget systems, one of the hallmark techniques of the era. He came upon the secretary fingering the booklet and asking, ‘What is this piece of shit?’ He had the pleasure of responding, ‘That piece of shit, sir, is what the president of the United States has directed that you introduce into your department.’[17]
The triumph of the RAND analysts, as some called it, put a lasting mark on education for public service. The core curriculum for that degree and similar foundational programs, like the one at Berkeley, then set a widely imitated paradigm which claimed that it taught “policy analysis.” Economic tools for analyzing policy were regarded as novel. They fostered evidentiary discussion of outcomes. And, because the tools came from “demanding social science disciplines,” they “helped give the curriculum of the fledgling public policy schools a certain kind of legitimacy in the academic world in which they were struggling for academic respect.”[18] “But left open, however,” one of the founding deans of such schools recalled,
were the answers to two further important questions: first, the extent to which schools of public policy intended to train individuals to participate effectively in the governmental process as policy makers as well as policy analysts; and if so, how individuals trained to be policy analysts, or policy makers … would relate to the political processes that were an inevitable part of policy making in a democratic society.[19]
Further, in the new curricula the definition of “policy analysis” was narrowed. In this paradigm, policy analysis teaching would focus on “economics, statistics, and quantitative analysis.” In such core curricula, at least half of the courses are in economics and statistics.[20] They focus especially on cost-benefit analysis and the microeconomic fields of behavioral economics, game theory, and operations research. Any student who masters this curriculum and the relevant statistics applications would be equipped to contribute to certain kinds of policy-related research. The student could model theories of action for certain kinds of public problems. But most policymaking challenges, and the related staff work, call upon different sets of skills. As a result, even as it triumphed in this part of academia, the microeconomic paradigm of policy analysis was passing out of fashion in much of government. In the world of foreign policy, the microeconomic paradigm never gained much traction to begin with, except in segments of development work.[21] Some studies have been done on the alumni of this kind of policy analysis education to see how well it worked for them in practice. The results seriously question the value of such core curricula. The alumni told the investigators that they wished they had learned more about topics like “policy design.”[22] While the study of policy analysis was taking its microeconomic turn, the study of “public administration” went through its crisis and advanced forward. It was revived as a field of “public management.” That field, fortunately, has continued to mature and advance.[23] Social Science and the Return of the Lawyers After World War II, law and lawyers became more and more powerful in establishing paradigms for domestic policymaking in the United States. In foreign policy, the story was very different. The older paradigm for expertise, that of international law, lost its dominant standing. No critic was more influential than the famous former diplomat George Kennan, who published a set of polemical lectures on “American Diplomacy” in 1951 attacking what he regarded as a legalist-moralist strain in American statecraft.[24] Kennan himself had no particular use for social science. He spent the rest of his life writing history and historical reflections. History and social science continue to be invaluable resources for evidence about trends and causes in social behavior. The gap remains in the application of this knowledge to the solution of practical problems. This is not because academics do bad work. Their work varies, as always. But, as I mentioned earlier, their work is fundamentally oriented to answering questions that are meaningful within their scholarly fields. These questions are very different from the kinds of questions actually encountered in the application of their knowledge to the solution of practical problems. There is a similar divide between the world of laboratory science disciplines and the world of engineering. Chemical engineering is not just applied chemistry. It is a distinctive discipline with canonical methods of its own. In the engineering disciplines, this point was grasped more than a hundred years ago. Law schools have become principal producers of the people who are actually going into the policy jobs. Lawyer-officials have ready gifts. They know how to make an argument. They are usually experienced writers. On a good day, they are relatively rigorous in attending to factual and legal detail. The tradeoff for these “generalist” skills, however, is a lack of much subject-matter or foreign expertise. Experienced as advocates who can pick evidence to defend a position, lawyers are not necessarily trained to weigh and sift positions on both sides. Experienced in being asked to decide what “can” be done, lawyers are not trained to analyze what “should” be done, even in policies having to do with policing or the administration of justice. They have no necessary experience in policy design, analysis, or implementation. Perhaps above all, a lawyerly cast to government tends to emphasize process over substance. Meetings proliferate. Sides are heard. The quality of written staff work takes second place.

The Teaching Problem and “Thick” Cases 

The World War II generation learned much about effective policy work, but never quite figured out how to teach it. Data for the microeconomic sort of policy analysis is also rarely connected to the data about implementation. Experts in program evaluation and experts in performance management became estranged, “a tale of two children who were brought up in the same house but were raised by different tribes and aren’t so friendly with one another.”[25] One part of the problem is that policy engineering is complicated. Assessing a policy situation is a classic problem of “thick description.” In academia, if readers will forgive me for lapsing momentarily into academic-speak, thick description
accurately describes observed social actions and assigns purpose and intentionality to these actions, by way of the researcher’s understanding and clear description of the context under which the social actions took place. Thick description captures the thoughts and feelings of participants as well as the often complex web of relationships among them. Thick description leads to thick interpretation, which in turn leads to thick meaning of the research findings. … Thick meaning of findings leads readers to a sense of verisimilitude, wherein they can cognitively and emotively ‘place’ themselves within the research context.[26]
For readers who got bogged down in that definition, the punch line is in the last sentence. Consider the Marshall Plan, for example. The simple memory of this might be that Americans wisely displayed exceptional generosity and foresight in committing a lot of money to help rebuild Europe. But that level of understanding barely begins to comprehend the qualities of the work involved in developing and implementing the European Recovery Program. The genius of the program is found in the details of the design, which are difficult to summarize quickly but include the way the plan involved the Europeans in working out the program designs and new ways to cooperate within Europe, the way the program set up and used local “counterpart” funds for acquisitions in each of the participating European countries, and the way it rallied wary U.S. congressmen with elements that appealed to the businessmen in their districts. Even at the level of higher strategy, the Marshall Plan reflected a choice of where to commit resources and energy — in this case, a massive commitment to Western Europe amid the simultaneous clamor for a commitment instead to America’s favored side in China’s civil war. Many public policy problems are like this, “thick” with successive stages of problem-solving, each with layers of analysis and context. Such thick problems are relatively resistant to social science generalizations. They also confound quests for generic forecasting. The problem has spawned an extensive literature about the craft of analyzing and sifting specific information, although in America much of this work is mainly known and taught among professional intelligence analysts.[27] All this is hard to translate to the classroom for a variety of reasons. First, many teachers do not have the requisite knowledge of policy-relevant details, because they have never been involved in the subject-matter specialization and because their scholarly disciplines do not usually expect (or even want) them to master such problem-solving skills. [quote id="4"] Second, hiring practitioners does not necessarily help. When ex-practitioners go into the classroom, they can often tell stories. They remember some of the details. Yet, they have no canon for how to teach about their experiences. One expert who surveyed courses in diplomacy all over America found that the differences were enormous. Across academics and practitioners alike, she concluded, “I could not find a common core.” Instead, what she found were courses that just elide the messy challenge of how to solve problems, especially if they involved other governments. Some courses focus on acquiring transnational expertise, “without distrusted national governments getting in the way.” Other courses dodge engagement by being aimed more at Americans who view the world as “a pathological mess” and just want protection from it. Then they focus on security studies, including intelligence, like the study of how to diagnose a disease, without attempting to teach about how to solve a foreign problem.[28] Third, college courses prefer “thin” cases that are easy to digest and understand in a single class before moving on to the next topic. The structure of a course usually leaves little time for students to delve very deeply into the details, personalities, and issues in any specific episode. To do so requires too much reading or assumes too much background knowledge. Students like stories. But, in the classroom, memorably thin descriptions and colorful anecdotes are preferred. Even classes that use a case method rarely devote multiple classes, much less weeks, to microexamination of a single case, however rich it may be. One popular solution to teaching about problem-solving is to stage a simulation. Yet, simulations in such simplified thin cases “devolve rather rapidly into theater.” International crisis simulations reinforce the notion of diplomacy as “an event or series of events, of crisis management or negotiations done in a matter of days.” To a veteran practitioner, “Diplomacy is to simulations as the practice of medicine is to the TV show ‘ER.’”[29] Another practice in contemporary teaching about policy work enjoins students to try writing “options” papers, modeled on policy memos. A typical policy memo in contemporary American government consists of some discussion of what is going on, something about process, and recommended talking points. If there is any policy analysis at all, it rarely advances much beyond op-ed style argument. As if to learn to imitate this mediocrity, students writing options papers are often urged to keep their papers short — op-ed length — supposedly so they can learn how to engage the attention of busy policymakers. The would-be experts thus learn to be experts by dumbing themselves down. Such training does not prepare students to engage professionally with the messy details of the policy instruments being used or the messy details of the local circumstances in which these concepts may actually be tested.

The Organizational Culture Problem

The usual focus in the study of organizational culture is on the culture of operators, of the “street-level bureaucracy,” as the title of one classic work put it.[30] These studies tend to neglect the organizational culture of higher-level policy work. Yet, it was just that part of organizational culture that was so essential in the software of the American organization for victory in World War II and its most effective public problem-solving in the postwar years. This part of the software is made up of formal and informal routines for activities that seem mundane, but are not. These cultural routines and habits define the way the key organizations distribute information about what is going on, including the ways top officials get their information every morning; comment upon or “clear” incoming reports or policy papers; delegate policy work; interact with “the field”; analyze issues for higher-level discussion and decision; resolve differences, either through written work or in meetings; record and brief about policy discussions and decisions; and critique their work. There are great variations in these practices. American practices are different than in other governments. They even vary greatly over time within the same agency. Two specific examples, both in the foreign policy world, illustrate this point. Through World War II and the postwar years, daily information about what was going on in the world was provided to top leaders by diplomatic and military reports, from the State Department and the armed services. Beginning in the 1960s, and evolving very slowly during the next 30 years, the CIA took over the job. The CIA became a systematic primary source of daily publications and briefings to tell top leaders what was going on in the world. The armed forces’ products quickly receded in importance and the quality deteriorated. By the 2000s, the State Department’s daily morning product had disappeared altogether and was abolished. Intelligence agencies have very particular strengths and weaknesses in what they follow and what they do. So, reliance on the intelligence agencies for the morning “papers” has very large effects on what policymakers see about the world. It also has very damaging effects on the incentives and quality surrounding diplomatic and military reporting. But this growing reliance on the daily worldview of the intelligence community (not necessarily drawing from foreign field presence or experience) was not the product of a conscious policy choice. It evolved incrementally, with little notice or reflection. Records of policy discussions provide another example of the variation of organizational cultures over time. Through the war and postwar years, careful records were usually kept for all high-level meetings among American officials. This is hard to do. It was not done mainly out of regard for historians, although that was a factor. It was done because such records were considered essential for good government. It forced reflection on what had been said or not said. It helped others stay current if they had a need to know what was going on. These habits were so thoroughly ingrained that even when President Eisenhower met one-on-one with his secretary of state, almost invariably one or both men would routinely prepare a written record of what they had just said to each other. The secret recording systems used by Presidents Kennedy, Johnson, and Richard Nixon were an extension of such habits, as dictabelts and tape machines made their way into offices. Henry Kissinger’s staff prepared excellent records of about 15,000 of his meetings and telephone calls. These routines remained relatively strong through the 1970s and even well into the 1980s, though they were starting to fade. It is now rare to find any good records kept of what is said at meetings among American officials. The quality of the records of meetings with foreigners has also deteriorated. The usual excuse given is the horror of leaks. But that horror was perfectly familiar to officials of the wartime and postwar generation as well. Though constantly irritated by leaks, those past officials thought that the net value of routines of good governance took precedence. The real reasons for the change are likely more banal. There was no conscious policy choice across the administrations to quit preparing good records. It is just hard to do it. Without a routinized discipline, it vanishes from the day-to-day culture. In the postwar period, detailed written estimates and policy staff work were the norm. Papers were subjected to constant peer review from colleagues who were similarly trained and experienced. Very busy officers were accustomed to writing and reading lengthy papers of this kind every day. Thousands of Americans acquired such experience. They could be found operating at the highest levels in Marshall Plan development (such as the famed economists Charles Kindleberger and Edward Mason), occupation governance (such as the young Kissinger), strategic planning, research and development (for example, Vannevar Bush’s team at the wartime Office of Scientific Research and Development and later in the creation of the National Science Foundation), and much more. One pattern in the War Department culture was that responsibility for planning and responsibility for operations were inseparable. A planner had to be willing and able to convert his work into action.[31] Developing these habits, the Americans during the 1940s were strongly influenced, through common work in various Allied organizations, by long-established and relatively high-quality British processes for collective policy analysis and staff work. Eisenhower was both a product and exemplar of such Allied experience. Although the origins are almost forgotten, the 1947 creation of America’s National Security Council system was greatly influenced by the model of British systems, including the British War Cabinet system. Many of the Americans had come to know, imitate, and grudgingly admire those staffing methods. They consciously adapted analogous habits of systematic paper preparation, record-keeping, historical evaluation, peer commentary, lucid guidance, and collective decision-making. Eisenhower well understood this background about why the National Security Council was created and how it was originally expected to function. He was the last American president who did.[32] [quote id="5"] The Pentagon Papers on the decisions made during the Vietnam War, the subject of the 2017 film, “The Post,” were an anachronism in more than one way. As bad as the Vietnam decisions were, the policy papers were long, detailed, and rigorous. The Pentagon Papers were such a revelation because this underlying policy work, and the dilemmas being presented, were relatively lucid and self-revealing. Suppose contemporary officials actually opened up and read some of these documents about Vietnam today. Suppose they contrasted the quality of the memos written in the 1960s with the papers they have seen cross their desk more recently, say, on policy toward Afghanistan or Iraq. These officials might be a bit bewildered. In their own working lives, they may never have seen written staff analyses of this kind, work that was so commonplace 50 years ago.[33] The sheer existence of the Pentagon Papers project is another revealing symptom of a vanished organizational culture. This work of thoroughgoing historical reflection was done at the direct behest of Secretary of Defense McNamara, during the Johnson administration. Back then, this sort of high-quality review was not so strange. There were other searching, internal self-examinations, like the ones done after the Bay of Pigs fiasco, or after the swine flu vaccine mess during the Ford administration. It is hard now to imagine the kind of American government that would even commission an internal study as meticulous as the Pentagon Papers, or the kind of studies the Kennedy and Ford administrations ordered to examine their own failures.[34] Outsiders — and even many insiders, especially the less-experienced ones — are unconscious of most of this software, and how much it varies. Historians rarely notice such things or compare contrasting routines over time. Although the details of such staffing practices have been extensively studied in Britain, I do not know of any comparable published work on these practices in the United States. One way to spot the decline in the quality of written policy work is to notice if the paper simply describes what is going on and then moves on to statements of what “we” want, with “talking points.” In this environment, PowerPoint slides replace prose analysis. As the quality of written staff work declines, fewer decisions can be made based off the paperwork. High-level meetings proliferate. They become a surrogate for good written analysis and advocacy. In such oral processes, delegation of analysis and action is more difficult. More and more policy work gets pulled up to the level of overworked principals, and their own ill-documented oral meetings. Meanwhile, senior agency officials turn more and more into functionaries. As they know their work or views are less meaningful, the trend reinforces the downward cycle. The older organizational culture naturally placed a high value on in-depth knowledge and analysis. In the CIA’s analytic world, for instance, Cold War-era estimates “could draw on a deep base of knowledge,” the 9/11 Commission observed in 2004. But,
[w]hen the Cold War ended, those investments could not easily be reallocated to new enemies. The cultural effects ran even deeper. In a more fluid international environment with uncertain, changing goals and interests, intelligence managers no longer felt they could afford such a patient, strategic approach to long-term accumulation of intellectual capital. A university culture with its versions of books and articles was giving way to the culture of the newsroom.[35]
With the disappearance of these organizational cultures, largely unnoticed, the software of policymaking that went with them also faded away about a generation ago. The deterioration in policymaking software has had a huge impact, as several recent policy episodes, including the Iraq War, have made clear. Yet, the present generation of policymakers and politicians are, understandably, not even aware of what has happened or how the government has changed.

A Template for Policy Engineering: Assessment … Design … Implementation

“Design process” is a phrase that is foundational in engineering education, in which students are trained in how to apply knowledge to the solution of practical problems. One of the main purposes of an engineering design process is to generate better questions and focus them constructively. Such focused questions then drive more specific, in-depth assessment. Engineers are often taught a set of steps they must memorize, steps that are put on a card they carry in their wallet. The specific steps memorized by engineering trainees vary from textbook to textbook or teacher to teacher. Common formulas have five or seven steps. MIT’s fine course on “Engineering Innovation and Design” in its renowned Gordon Engineering Leadership Program has a 10-step design process.[36] “Design” has become a fashionable concept during the last ten years. Although the usages overlap, they vary in important ways. In the business world, “design thinking” has become a term synonymous with a search for greater creativity in thinking about what the firm is trying to do. A leader in this field is the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford’s d.school. Its guide to design thinking breaks down a process with five stages (with sub-methods for each): empathize (with the user), define (the challenge), ideate, prototype, and test.[37] At the end of the 2000s, reacting to a very difficult and complex set of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. Army decided it needed to add the concept of “design” to its basic field manual for “the operations process.” Officers now argue about what “Army design methodology” means in practice. At a minimum, it is the Army’s way of urging commanders who are confronting complex or unfamiliar problems to stop and think harder about what they are trying to do. Officers are urged to at least “give a bit of structure to those periodic conversations any commander has with his staff officers to improve his appreciation of the mission.” This should at least take the form of four questions, about what is going on, what exactly is the desired end state, what is the theory of strategic action to get that result, and how to act and speak to make good on that theory.[38] [quote id="6"] Meanwhile, within academia, some scholars of public management have pressed for a turn toward a “new” study of policy design, what they call “design 2.0.” These experts reject the stock analyses that just relate tools to outputs, a superficial “means-ends understanding of policy formulation.” Instead, they call attention to the multilayered and deeply context-dependent nature of modern policy design.[39] In the world of business schools, the field of “decision analysis” — a required part of the usual first-year MBA curriculum — consists substantially of teaching students how to assign number weights to values and probabilities and then work up equations that integrate the calculation of these variables.[40] It does not, however, actually teach a policy design framework. A process for policy work, which itself is often called a “design process,” is all about assessment, design, and implementation. [41] Assessments Assessments are judgments about circumstances. These appreciations are always a compound of assessments of reality, what we or “they” think is going on; assessments about values, what we or “they” care about; and preliminary assessments about action — what, if anything, might be done. In this context, the action judgment is simply the threshold cognitive judgment — can we do something about this? — that then influences how much attention we give to the problem. There are various heuristic aids to assessment: weighing alternative interpretations of available evidence, weighing alternative futures and scenarios, assigning probabilities, and more.[42] Good assessment has at least four elements: Design Design is the choreography of action. A more academic definition of policy design, developed by scholars working in Canada and Singapore, calls it: “an activity conducted by a range of policy actors at different levels of action in the hope of improving policymaking and policy outcomes through the accurate anticipation of the consequences of government actions and the articulation of specific courses of action to be followed to achieve different levels of policy goals and ambitions.” Such design work occurs “within the context of designing complete policy packages. … [So] each policy and program is a complex arrangement of ends and means-related goals, objectives, instruments, and calibrations that exists in a specific governance and temporal setting, and these contexts must be taken into account if effective program design is to result from design efforts.”[44] To put this a little more simply, the “design” part of a policy design process includes choices about: To offer a simple illustration of how such a framework could be applied, just consider one part, the “operational objectives,” in the Trump administration’s trade and tariff policy toward China. Are they to gain a trade deal that would more fairly recouple the American and Chinese economies? If so, what would be a concrete definition of success? Or the operational objectives could be the opposite — to decouple the two economies. Again, what would be a concrete, working definition of whether that objective had been attained? Or the operational objectives could be defined as a targeted increase in U.S. manufacturing employment, or as a reduction of U.S. bilateral current account deficits. And so on. Obviously, the analysis of these different operational objectives then open up quite different questions about the best theories of action and choreographies of what should be done. Yet, since at the moment (September 2019) no one can tell what the operational objectives are for the U.S. policy, the policy becomes inherently incoherent. Implementation Implementation is the final part of the policy work. It is attentive to local circumstances, the realities of the field, and the many stakeholders involved. At every stage, the software includes the organizational cultures for getting and evaluating information, for doing analysis, and for recording what is being done. As with the other elements, implementation is not separate from assessment and design. It interacts with them, as implementation informs ongoing reevaluation of everything else. [45] This whole template — conscious methods for assessment, design, and implementation — is itself just a kind of heuristic tool. As with the engineering trainees memorizing the steps on their wallet cards, such tools are both a discipline and a defense. They are a kind of analytical checklist that provide a bit more protection against so many insistent claims that divert and distract attention.

Policy Education Should Not Stand Alone

The wartime and postwar science adviser, public official, and longtime president of Harvard, James Conant, regarded Harvard’s public administration school, established in the late 1930s, as his greatest failure. He observed that two approaches had to be balanced. Such public affairs education should not, he thought, duplicate business schools by trying to build an entirely separate faculty. He thought such education should draw on the resources of the university as a whole. At the same time, Conant thought it was important to have a curriculum that did not emphasize a science of public administration separated from its policy content.[46] Colleges of arts and sciences, and the major professional schools (law, business, engineering, medicine) all turn out women and men who work on public policy. In fact, despite the growth of the policy schools, these older institutions empirically still contribute the great majority of the citizens who work on such problems, including at the higher levels of policymaking. Yet, none of those “regular” schools are, or can be, primarily interested in public policy or education for public service. Even at the leading policy schools, only a fraction of their graduates actually go into public service.[47] The challenge, then, is in how to offer a distinctive preparation for citizen involvement in public policy. Aside from the general education of citizens, the professionals who are most likely to identify a need for more professional training tend to be in government, including the military, foreign service, intelligence, and legislative staff; law, including as a possible addition to law school work; business, including as a possible addition to business school work; academia, including as a possible addition to PhD or MA programs; applied science, including engineering, public health, and medical practice; and nonprofit organizations. Many of the key jobholders already in government are primarily trained in specialized field and technical duties. Their often-admirable training does not include adequate preparation for policymaking challenges outside their traditional functional and managerial skillsets. Traditional graduate studies related to policy work tend to bifurcate into two very distinct tracks — a professional master’s degree program and an academic PhD program. Both of these programs serve important purposes, but they leave a major gap. The PhD students develop rigorous research skills to investigate theories in their fields, but are largely insulated from consideration of real-world policymaking.[48] Professional master’s students are exposed to some complexities and challenges of practice. The strength of these programs can be training in quantitative analytic methods, public administration, and advocacy. For various reasons, they do not provide rigorous training in the kind of strategic and design thinking needed for problem-solving, nor do they impart enough relevant substantive knowledge.[49] In addition, students are forced to make a fateful choice early in their studies. They can either pursue the law or master’s degree, which opens the path to the world of practice yet can mean foregoing a career in teaching and research. Or they can pursue the academic PhD and sharply steer away from training in practical problem-solving. An alternative approach would be to develop a relatively flexible curriculum. It would be conceived not as an alternative educational pathway, but as a broadening or extension of a core path that a student or professional has already chosen. Rather than forcing students to choose between a traditional “major” or career track and public service, the purpose of the curriculum would be to help students learn how to apply their core interest (and others they may discover) to public service. This complementary curriculum thus need not emphasize in-depth subject-matter education in particular regions of the world or in functional specialties like development, public health, cyberspace, or public order. The curriculum should instead be designed and delivered so that it can complement many such specializations. Such a curriculum could have at least three especially distinctive features: first, instruction and practice in analysis of detailed information and the assessment of situations. These assessments must grow out of a relatively deep ability to understand and imagine governance in unfamiliar institutions. Second, instruction and practice in a conscious policy design process: This process can teach students how to break down complex policy problems. Then they can learn how to unpack and identify critical questions or choices, using a common conceptual vocabulary. Finally, the curriculum could make extensive use of detailed case studies, both historical and contemporary, as projects in which students can develop a series of specific skills in working with situations of potential cooperation and conflict. These projects can be sustained over weeks, to give a sense of iterative change and adjustment. Some programs have tried such “policy task forces/workshops.”[50] [quote id="7"] The skills to develop in such extended exercises can include attention to the routine habits of effective staff work. They include familiarity with the role of budgeting in policymaking, crafting public statements, participation in policy debates, role-playing to understand the perspectives of others and gain experience with negotiation, and learning to orchestrate and evaluate the implementation of a policy. Such an educational initiative carries with it a major agenda for research. More and better “thick” case studies are needed, of the kind that are indispensable in other realms of professional education. The traditional scholarly disciplines have a specific understanding of what “case studies” mean for their investigations, but those case studies are rarely very useful for this kind of practical education. At some policy schools, such cases as exist have been prepared by professional “casewriters” who often do not have substantive training in the topic and whose work may not reflect the best scholarship or expert analysis. The range of possible studies of this kind is enormous. Such studies can bring “thick” problems and fateful choices to life.

Conclusion

There are obviously several major ways to explain the decline in government performance and the collapse in public trust in the U.S. government since the high-water marks of the late 1950s and early 1960s. Since the early 1960s, the government has tried to do much more — around the world and at home — and it is perceived to have usually fallen short, sometimes catastrophically so. It is not very useful to blame the anti-Washington discourse. Such scapegoating of Washington is not new. It is an old, old theme in American history. Nor do I blame incompetent delivery of basic services, which are still reasonably good in America. Part of the story is a record of policy failures: the tendency to react to events rather than drive them, poorly specified objectives, confusing guidance, reliance on weakly evidenced suppositions, little grasp of organizational capacities, inability to adapt organizations to new problems, overreliance on ill-managed contractors. These are all symptoms. They are symptoms of policies that are badly designed. Weak knowledge of the history of certain issues or even of the government’s own policy record, a superficial grasp of other communities or institutions, and a preoccupation with reactions to daily news: These, too, are symptoms. They are symptoms of a weakening capacity for in-depth professional assessment. Of course, the marked tendency to militarize policy, to rely on military instruments and military policymakers, is no cure. It is another symptom of the breakdown, as American policymaking is dumbed down and becomes praetorian. Some of these problems can be blamed on bad structures and on polarized, dysfunctional politics. But that’s not all of the story. As the immensely powerful Qing empire in China began to decay in the early 1800s, a leading scholar began calling for reform of the Confucian system that selected and trained the country’s administrative elite. He looked around and saw “everything was falling apart … the administration was contaminated and vile.” The scholar, Bao Shichen, “found himself drawn toward more practical kinds of scholarship that were not tested on the civil service exams.” Bao “would in time become one of the leading figures in a field known broadly as ‘statecraft’ scholarship, an informal movement of Confucians who were deeply concerned with real-world issues of administration and policy.”[51] Tragically, for Bao and many of his reformist allies, though their efforts made some headway, it was not enough. They could not reverse the decline of their empire. The United States government has plenty of problems too. Fortunately, it is not yet at the point the Qing dynasty reached. Americans can reflect on a proud heritage, not far in the past, when Americans were notorious across the world for their practical, can-do skills in everything from fixing cars to tackling apparently insurmountable problems, public as well as private. These seemingly bygone skills were not in their genes or in the air. They need not be consigned to wistful nostalgia. The skills were specific. They were cultural. And they are teachable.   Philip Zelikow is the White Burkett Miller Professor of History and J. Wilson Newman Professor of Governance at the Miller Center of Public Affairs, both at the University of Virginia. His books and essays focus on critical episodes in American and world history. A former civil rights attorney and career diplomat, he has served at all levels of American government. He was the executive director of the 9/11 Commission and, before that, directed the Carter-Ford commission on federal election reform. He has also worked on international policy in each of the five administrations from Reagan through Obama.   Image: Nicepik [post_title] => To Regain Policy Competence: The Software of American Public Problem-Solving [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => to-regain-policy-competence-the-software-of-american-public-problem-solving [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-09-09 12:37:16 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-09-09 16:37:16 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://tnsr.org/?p=1862 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [lead] => American policymaking has declined over the past several decades, but it is something that can be regained. It is not ephemeral or lost to the mists of time. The skills needed to tackle public problem-solving are specific and cultural — and they are teachable. [pubinfo] => [issue] => Vol 2, Iss 4 [quotes] => Array ( [0] => Array ( [author] => [style] => left [text] => The software of policy is about how policies are crafted within a given set of processes and constraints. ) [1] => Array ( [author] => [style] => right [text] => Very early, the public administration schools moved away from older styles of training in governing philosophies, political thought, and civic virtue, the kinds of educations urged by men like Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Abraham Lincoln, or John Stuart Mill.  ) [2] => Array ( [author] => [style] => left [text] => The organizational culture that accomplished so much during the war was passed along mainly through imitation and apprenticeship. But the best practices did not migrate into standardized training or academic degree programs. ) [3] => Array ( [author] => [style] => right [text] => Many public policy problems are like this, “thick” with successive stages of problem-solving, each with layers of analysis and context.  ) [4] => Array ( [author] => [style] => left [text] => One pattern in the War Department culture was that responsibility for planning and responsibility for operations were inseparable. A planner had to be willing and able to convert his work into action. ) [5] => Array ( [author] => [style] => right [text] => A process for policy work, which itself is often called a “design process,” is all about assessment, design, and implementation.  ) [6] => Array ( [author] => [style] => left [text] => Rather than forcing students to choose between a traditional “major” or career track and public service, the purpose of the curriculum would be to help students learn how to apply their core interest (and others they may discover) to public service. ) ) [style] => strategist [type] => Strategist [style_label] => The Strategist [download] => Array ( [title] => PDF Download [file] => ) [authors] => Array ( [0] => 102 ) [endnotes] => Array ( [title] => Endnotes [endnotes] => [1] Francis Fukuyama, Political Order and Political Decay (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2014), 469. [2] On other quality critiques, see, e.g., Donald Kettl, Escaping Jurassic Government: How to Recover America’s Lost Commitment to Competence (Washington: Brookings Institution Press, 2016); and Paul Light, “A Cascade of Failures: Why Government Fails, and How to Stop it,” Brookings Institution, July 2014, https://wagner.nyu.edu/files/faculty/publications/Light_Cascade_of_Failures_Why_Govt_Fails.pdf. [3] Urgent Business for America: Revitalizing the Federal Government for the 21st Century, National Commission on Public Service, chaired by Paul Volcker (Washington: Brookings Institution, 2003), 1–2. [4] A group of former officials who are also educators, and have thus worked on both sides of the fence, recently joined me in publishing a “Statement on Education for Public Problem Solving,” posted at a website that also includes some suggestive scholarship. https://fsi.stanford.edu/publicproblemsolving/docs/statement-working-group-public-problem-solving. [5] Paul J. H. Schoemaker and Philip E. Tetlock, “Superforecasting: How to Upgrade Your Company’s Judgment,” Harvard Business Review, May 2016, 4, https://hbr.org/2016/05/superforecasting-how-to-upgrade-your-companys-judgment; see generally Tetlock and Dan Gardner, Superforecasting: The Art and Science of Prediction (New York: Broadway Books, 2015). [6] Alexander Keyssar and Ernest May, “Education for Public Service in the History of the United States,” in, For the People: Can We Fix Public Service? ed. John D. Donahue and Joseph S. Nye Jr. (Washington, DC: Brookings, 2003), 225. [7] Keyssar and May, “Education for Public Service in the History of the United States,” 232. [8] Keyssar and May, “Education for Public Service in the History of the United States,” 230. [9] See William Chase, The American Law School and the Rise of Administrative Government (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1982), 29–49. [10] “Scientific,” Ralph Ketcham, Public-Spirited Citizenship: Leadership and Good Government in the United States (New York: Routledge, 2015), 102 (discussing the address of Harvard president A. Laurence Lovell to the new American Political Science Association in 1910). A perceptive Chinese political thinker of the early 20th century, Liang Qichao, much influenced by the work of John Dewey, was worried in 1919 about the trend in American political science toward “the omnipotence of science” amid a presumed social Darwinism of struggle among conflicting interests. Liang, trying to adapt Western ideas to his more Confucian sensibility, believed these trends were neglecting the older concentration on civic virtue and defining the public good. Ketcham, Public-Spirited Citizenship, 104–05. [11] Ketcham, Public-Spirited Citizenship, 101–30. Ketcham illustrates his argument with an appendix that offers a sharply observed history of the evolution of the Maxwell School at Syracuse (see pages 205–52). Both William Mosher, at Syracuse, and Charles Merriam, at the University of Chicago, produced early exemplary textbooks that tried to balance their social scientific observations of American public life with hortatory statements of their idealistic hopes for American government planning. Reviewers noted the “unresolved” tension between the specific science and the sermonizing idealism about how it should be applied in practice. Ketcham, Public-Spirited Citizenship, 226–27. [12] On the deficiencies of high-level German military staff work, especially on higher-level strategy, intelligence assessment, resource management, and logistics, see, e.g., Geoffrey Megargee, Inside Hitler’s High Command (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2000). [13] Paul Kennedy, Engineers of Victory: The Problem Solvers Who Turned the Tide in the Second World War (New York: Random House, 2013), 362, 372. A similar argument is made by Richard Overy, in Why the Allies Won (New York: Norton, 1997), who does not delve as deeply into the software that made the structures he praises so functional. [14] See, for example, Thomas McCraw and William Childs, American Business since 1920: How It Worked, 3rd ed. (New York: Wiley Blackwell, 2018), 26–28, 72–75 (emphasizing the decentralized management approaches of both Alfred Sloan at GM and Ferdinand Eberstadt in organizing war production). Explaining the “deindustrialization” of the 1970s and 1980s, they stress that, by then, “American management became more enamored with ‘financialization’ than with creating new products and services.” See page 232. [15] Keyssar and May, “Education for Public Service,” 233. [16] Marshall radio address, April 1947, quoted in Philip Zelikow, “George C. Marshall and the Moscow CFM Meeting of 1947,” Diplomacy and Statecraft 8 no. 2 (1997): 97, 116, https://doi.org/10.1080/09592299708406045. [17] Keyssar and May, “Education for Public Service,” 234; and Graham Allison, “Emergence of Schools of Public Policy: Reflections by a Founding Dean,” in, Oxford Handbook of Public Policy, ed. Michael Moran, Martin Rein, and Robert Goodin, (New York: Oxford University Press, 2006), 64. See generally, telling this triumph of the microeconomic turn as a success story, Beryl Radin, Beyond Machiavelli: Policy Analysis Comes of Age (Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press, 2000). Radin’s conception of policy analysis is triumphantly exclusive. It seems to simply ignore the existence of lawyers, diplomats, and health care policy wonks, among the many categories of people who believe they do such work. [18] Allison, “Emergence,” 68. Allison recounts that he focused much of his agenda as dean on offsetting this curricular bias by building up the public management curriculum, fostering executive programs, and raising funds for problem-focused research centers. This work did help the school take off and become relatively successful. But, even from his account, it is not clear that he ever fully addressed the two questions that bothered him from the start. [19] Allison, “Emergence of Schools of Public Policy,” 65. [20] Such courses are currently 16 of the 30 credits in the Harvard Kennedy School’s first-year master in public policy core curriculum: “Degree Requirements,” Harvard Kennedy School, accessed Aug. 26, 2019, https://www.hks.harvard.edu/educational-programs/masters-programs/master-public-policy/degree-requirements. [21] As I saw firsthand when chairing part of the Harvard Kennedy School’s core curriculum during the 1990s, several of the founders of the Harvard Kennedy School were deeply dissatisfied with the way the school’s core curriculum had developed. They believed the school had succumbed to the desire of much of the faculty to join the “third best economics department in Cambridge.” Richard Neustadt quoted in Graham Allison, “Institution Builder,” in, Guardian of the Presidency: The Legacy of Richard E. Neustadt, ed. Matthew Dickinson and Elizabeth Neustadt (Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press, 2009), 146–47. [22] For articles that focus on alumni of the Harvard Kennedy School, see, Carol Chetkovich, “What’s in a Sector? The Shifting Career Plans of Public Policy Students,” Public Administration Review 63 no. 6 (November 2003): 660–74, https://doi.org/10.1111/1540-6210.00330; and Mark Henderson and Carol Chetkovich, “Sectors and Skills: Career Trajectories and Training Needs of MPP Students,” Journal of Public Affairs Education 20 no. 2 (2014): 193–216, https://doi.org/10.1080/15236803.2014.12001782. [23] The modern field of public management has innovated and matured into a global movement, borrowing much from management innovations in the private sector. At the level of day-to-day job performance and integrity, federal bureaucrats seem to do at least as well as employees in private firms. See Donald Kettl, The Global Public Management Revolution, 2nd ed. (Washington, DC: Brookings Institution, 2005); and Hal Rainey, Understanding and Managing Public Organizations, 5th ed. (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2014), chap. 14. [24] George F. Kennan, American Diplomacy 1900-1950 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1951). [25] Donald F. Kettl, “Making Data Speak: Lessons for Using Numbers for Solving Public Policy Puzzles,” Governance 29 no. 4 (October 2016): 573–79, https://doi.org/10.1111/gove.12211; “a tale of two children,” Donald Moynihan quoted in Katherine Barrett and Richard Greene, “Government’s Data-Driven Frenemies,” Governing, March 17, 2016, http://www.governing.com/columns/smart-mgmt/gov-performance-measurement-program-evaluator.html. [26] Joseph Ponterotto, “Brief Note on the Origins, Evolution, and Meaning of the Qualitative Research Concept Thick Description,” Qualitative Report 11 no. 3 (2006): 538, 543, https://nsuworks.nova.edu/tqr/vol11/iss3/6/. [27] An introduction to this literature is available through the essays collected in Roger George and James Bruce, eds., Analyzing Intelligence: National Security Practitioners’ Perspectives, 2nd ed. (Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press, 2014). [28] Donna Marie Oglesby, “Diplomacy Education Unzipped,” Foreign Service Journal (January/February 2015): 27, 28, https://www.afsa.org/diplomacy-education-unzipped. [29] Barbara Bodine (a retired diplomat and current director of Georgetown’s Institute for the Study of Diplomacy), “Teaching Diplomacy as Process (Not Event): A Practitioner’s Song,” Foreign Service Journal (January/February 2015): 21, 24. [30] E.g., Michael Lipsky, Street-Level Bureaucracy: Dilemmas of the Individual in Public Services, 30th anniv. rev. ed. (New York: Russell Sage, 2010). For an example in the case of U.S. diplomats, see Kenneth Weisbrode, The Atlanticists: A Story of American Diplomacy, rev. ed. (Santa Ana, CA: Nortia Press, 2015). [31] See, for example, the detailed portrait in Ray Cline, Washington Command Post: The Operations Division, in the Historical Series on the U.S. Army in World War II, subseries for the War Department (Washington: Office of the Chief of Military History, 1951). [32] The initial proposal for a national security council, in the Eberstadt Report, was modeled on the British War Cabinet system and the wartime State-War-Navy Coordinating Committee, which had also been modeled on British practice. Douglas Stuart, Creating the National Security State (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2012), 89. For background on the Roosevelt practice, see also, Matthew Dickinson, Bitter Harvest: FDR, Presidential Power and the Growth of the Presidential Branch (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1999). Though this is mostly forgotten now, President Harry Truman was suspicious of the national security council proposal. He was suspicious precisely because he understood that it was modeled on the British War Cabinet and, like that system, was meant to dilute the power of the head of government and constrain him in a more deliberate, analytical, and collective decision-making system. [33] When national security officials of the Obama administration reflect on the best written policy work they encountered, the two standouts seem to have been the preparatory work done before the May 2011 Bin Laden raid into Pakistan and the policy support work on Iran that culminated in the Iran nuclear deal of 2015. But I think those episodes stand out so much to them because the fine quality of that written policy work was not the norm. [34] As illustrations see, for example, the studies published in Richard Neustadt, Report to JFK: Skybolt in Perspective (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1999); Richard Neustadt and Harvey Fineberg, The Swine Flu Affair: Decision Making on a Slippery Disease (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1978). [35] The 9/11 Commission Report: Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (New York: Norton, 2004), 91. I was the commission’s executive director. This particular passage of the report was drafted with the input of a former deputy director of the CIA and the former head of the CIA’s Center for the Study of Intelligence, both of whom were on our staff. During the 2000s and 2010s, reacting to problems in analytic tradecraft, exemplified by the Iraq weapons of mass destruction catastrophe, the intelligence community built up a National Intelligence University, operated by the Defense Intelligence Agency. The CIA has developed its Sherman Kent School of Intelligence Analysis. The substance of the CIA’s analytic training has improved, although some of those involved in these innovations believe the intelligence community needs to make further significant progress. [36] The ten steps are: 1) identify needs (what’s the problem?); 2) information phase (what exists?); 3) stakeholder phase (what’s wanted and who wants it?); 4) planning/operational research (what’s realistic and what limits us?); 5) hazard analysis (what’s safe and what can go wrong?); 6) specifications (what’s required?); 7) creative design (ideation); 8) conceptual design (potential solutions); 9) prototype design (create a version of the proposed design); and 10) verification (does it work and, if not, redesign). From the version of MIT’s course 6.902 taught in Fall 2012 by Blade Kotelly and Joel Schindall and available through MIT OpenCourseWare. [37] See, e.g., “An Introduction to Design Thinking: Process Guide,” Hasso Plattner Institute, accessed Aug. 26, 2019, https://dschool-old.stanford.edu/sandbox/groups/designresources/wiki/36873/attachments/74b3d/ModeGuideBOOTCAMP2010L.pdf. [38] “Field Manual 5-0: The Operations Process,” Department of the Army, March 2010; “ADP 5-0: The Operations Process,” Department of the Army, May 2012. The impetus for the “design” movement appears to have come from the Army’s Command and General Staff College and School for Advanced Military Studies, both at Fort Leavenworth. The quote and questions, paraphrased, are from Lt. Col. Celestino Perez, “A Practical Guide to Design,” Military Review, March-April 2011, 43–45, https://www.armyupress.army.mil/Portals/7/military-review/Archives/English/MilitaryReview_20110430_art008.pdf; see also Heather Wolters, “Army Design Methodology: Commander’s Resource,” Department of the Army, Feb. 2012, https://apps.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/a558054.pdf. [39] One template for policy design, derived from domestic policy experience, offers a five-level framework: high-level abstraction, program-policy linkages, program-level operationalization, program implementation linkages, and specific measures. Michael Howlett, Ishani Mukherjee, and Jeremy Rayner, “Designing Effective Programs,” in, Handbook of Public Administration, 3rd ed., ed. James Perry and Robert Christensen (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2015), Table 10.5, 196. See generally Michael Howlett, Ishani Mukherjee, and Jun Jie Woo, “From Tools to Toolkits in Policy Design Studies: The New Design Orientation Towards Policy Formulation Research,” Policy & Politics 43 no. 2 (April 2015): 291, 297-99, https://doi.org/10.1332/147084414X13992869118596. For more on this notion of “design 2.0” as a research agenda, see also Howlett and Mukherjee, “Policy Design: From Tools to Patches,” Canadian Public Administration 60 no. 1 (March 2017): 140–44, https://doi.org/10.1111/capa.12209. [40] See, e.g., Paul Goodwin and George Wright, Decision Analysis for Management Judgment, 5th ed. (New York: Wiley, 2014). [41] Earlier and different versions of this design framework were first tried out in Philip Zelikow, “Foreign Policy Engineering: From Theory to Practice and Back Again,” International Security 18 no. 4 (Spring 1994): 143–71, https://www.jstor.org/stable/2539180. This framework has been tried out in the classroom at Harvard and elsewhere. At Stanford, Jeremy Weinstein and Francis Fukuyama are developing an analogous framework in their teaching. [42] See, e.g., the illustrations catalogued in Atul Gawande, The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right (New York: Henry Holt, 2009); and Steven Johnson, Farsighted: How We Make the Decisions that Matter the Most (New York: Riverhead, 2018). [43] These four elements are a synthesis of methods suggested in Richard Neustadt and Ernest May, Thinking in Time: The Uses of History for Decision-Makers (New York: Macmillan, 1986), along with the way Neustadt, May, and I then developed and taught these ideas. See also Tetlock and Gardner, Superforecasting. I’m indebted to Michael Morell for discussions about the most basic elements of good assessment. See also the good discussion in Bodine, “Teaching Diplomacy as Process (Not Event),” 21–26. [44] Howlett, Mukherjee, and Rayner, “Designing Effective Programs,” 195. [45] For more on this emphasis on local, ground-level knowledge, see generally, written more in the context of domestic policymaking, Tara Dawson McGuinness and Anne-Marie Slaughter, “The New Practice of Public Problem Solving,” Stanford Social Innovation Review, Spring 2019, 27–33, https://ssir.org/articles/entry/the_new_practice_of_public_problem_solving. For some promising work on how to implement effective programs in the realm of state institution building, what they call “Problem Driven Iterative Adaptation,” see Matt Andrews, Lant Pritchett, and Michael Woolcock, Building State Capability: Evidence, Analysis, Action (New York: Oxford University Press, 2017). In more of a conflict/security context, see the pair of outstanding recent case study illustrations of analysis from the ground up, offered in Carter Malkasian, War Comes to Garmser: Thirty Years of Conflict on the Afghan Frontier (New York: Oxford University Press, 2016) (the paperback edition has a valuable afterword reflecting on more recent U.S. efforts); and Illusions of Victory: The Anbar Awakening and the Rise of the Islamic State (New York: Oxford University Press, 2017). [46] Allison, “Emergence of Schools of Public Policy,” 67; James Conant, My Several Lives (New York: Harper & Row, 1970). [47] Such placement trends led to a major lawsuit against Princeton, in which the members of the Robertson family that had originally donated the funds to enlarge the Woodrow Wilson School sued because the school no longer seemed to be using the gift to educate students for public service. Part of the 2008 settlement required Princeton to sponsor a $50 million foundation dedicated to that mission. Tamar Lewin, “Princeton Settles Money Battle Over Gift,” New York Times, Dec. 10, 2008, https://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/11/education/11princeton.html. [48] This depiction of the academic market failure draws in part from arguments developed by Jim Steinberg and Frank Gavin for the Carnegie International Policy Scholars program. The academic PhD programs suffer from another problem. Unlike the policy schools, which are often home to faculty from a variety of social science disciplines, and in some cases the natural sciences and engineering, PhD programs in international affairs are designed, taught, and administered in discipline-based departments, primarily political science. This arrangement may make sense for scholarly training in that discipline. But it is counterproductive for interdisciplinary policy training. That problem has been compounded by the long-term decline of area studies programs within political science departments. [49] The professional master’s degree programs, typically one to two years, focus on professional skills training for future practitioners. These degree programs are the core of most APPAM (Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management) and APSIA (Association of Professional Schools in International Affairs) schools. To the extent they have a canon, they too reflect the “microeconomic turn.” There are usually also courses that provide background information on international relations, current issues, and particular regions. As a nod to practical training, such schools frequently hire faculty as professors of practice and adjuncts who are current and former practitioners. They frequently draw from their experience to tell good policy stories and offer suggestive illustrations. This helps. But they then lack an established teachable canon for rigorous professional education. [50] There are some useful precedents in the “policy analysis exercises” used at some of the public policy schools. At Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School, Bodine describes policy task force/workshops as “more practical than the conventional academic approach and more conceptual, structural and historical than simulations or even case studies.” Each focuses on a single major ongoing policy issue. Students produce a set of detailed papers on each facet of it. Bodine, “Teaching Diplomacy as Process (Not Event),” 25. The CIA’s Kent School of Intelligence Analysis has had some success using an analogous approach in training intelligence analysts. [51] Stephen Platt, Imperial Twilight: The Opium War and the End of China’s Last Golden Age (New York: Knopf, 2018), 233 (following the work of William Rowe). ) [contents] => Array ( [title] => [contents] => ) ) [comment_count] => 0 [current_comment] => -1 [found_posts] => 3 [max_num_pages] => 1 [max_num_comment_pages] => 0 [is_single] => [is_preview] => [is_page] => [is_archive] => 1 [is_date] => [is_year] => [is_month] => [is_day] => [is_time] => [is_author] => 1 [is_category] => [is_tag] => [is_tax] => [is_search] => [is_feed] => [is_comment_feed] => [is_trackback] => [is_home] => [is_privacy_policy] => [is_404] => [is_embed] => [is_paged] => [is_admin] => [is_attachment] => [is_singular] => [is_robots] => [is_posts_page] => [is_post_type_archive] => [query_vars_hash:WP_Query:private] => d754251b94ecc91bdfa3bdca913dd641 [query_vars_changed:WP_Query:private] => 1 [thumbnails_cached] => [stopwords:WP_Query:private] => [compat_fields:WP_Query:private] => Array ( [0] => query_vars_hash [1] => query_vars_changed ) [compat_methods:WP_Query:private] => Array ( [0] => init_query_flags [1] => parse_tax_query ) )