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In the past two decades the field of international relations studies has become increasingly diversified and is now marked by sharp differences over questions of scope, method, and theory. This heterogeneity, however, should not be allowed to obscure broad agreement on some fundamental propositions of overriding importance. One of these is the feeling shared by traditionalists and scientifically-oriented investigators alike, and by many academic scholars as well as sophisticated policymakers, that the way in which the leaders of nation-states view each other and the nature of world political conflict is of fundamental importance in determining what happens in relations among states.
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American Foreign Policy (London: G. Allen, 1980) pp. 316, 318.
(Glencoe, Illinois: The Free Press, 1953), hereafter cited as Study.
For a useful critique of the systematic multi-biographical study of elite groups, see Morris Janowitz, “The Systematic Aspects of Political Biography,” World Politics 6 (April 1954). A comprehensive critical appraisal of elite theories and related empirical researches is provided in Dankwart A. Rustow, “The Study of Elites,” World Politics 18 (July 1966).
In his review article, “Politics, History, and Psychology,” World Politics, 8 (October 1955), p. 117.
An early attempt was made by Theodore Chen to apply the “operational code” approach to Communist Chinese leaders. More recently, in December 1966, Robert North organized a conference of Chinese area specialists at Stanford University to consider again the utility and feasibility of doing a study of the Chinese Communist operational code. Other studies pursue similar research objectives, though not modeled on the operational code; See, for example, Davis B. Bobrow, “The Chinese Communist Conflict System, Orbis, 9 (Winter 1966); Howard L. Boorman and Scott A. Boorman, “Strategy and National Psychology in China,” The Annals, 370 (March 1967); Tang Tsou and Morton Halperin, “Mao Tse-tung’s Revolutionary Strategy and Peking’s International Behavior,” American Political Science Review 59 (March 1965).
A helpful effort to identify the several components of A Study of Bolshevism is provided by Daniel Bell, “Bolshevik Man, His Motivations: A Psychoanalytic Key to Communist Behavior,” Commentary, 19 (1955), pp. 179–87; much of this essay was reproduced in the same authors “Ten Theories in Search of Reality: The Prediction of Soviet Behavior in the Social Sciences,” World Politics, 10 (April 1958).
(New York: McGraw-Hill, 1951).
In this connection see, for example, Michael Waltzer’s study of the origins of modem radical politics in the sixteenth century and his effort to construct a general model of radical politics that encompasses Bolshevism as well as Puritanism. The Revolution of Saints (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1965).
The psychoanalytic hypotheses employed by Leites were touched upon at various points in A Study of Bolshevism and discussed more fully in his article, “Panic and Defenses Against Panic in the Bolshevik View of Polities,” in Psychoanalysis and the Social Sciences, Vol. 4, (New York: International Universities Press, 1955), pp. 135–44.
Study, p. 22. Daniel Bell, op. cit., also called attention to the fact that Leites regards Bolshevik character as both a conscious and unconscious reaction to features of the earlier pre-Bolshevik character.
I have suggested elsewhere (“Power As A Compensatory Value for Political Leaders,” Journal of Social Issues, 24 (July 1968)) that political scientists interested in applying personality theories to the study of political leaders need to build a number of conceptual ‘bridges’ that reflect the problems, theoretical interests, and available data of their discipline in order to make more effective use of personality theories rooted in psychoanalysis. The “operational code” construct is one such ‘bridge.’ The belief system about politics is part of the cognitive and affective portion of the ego structure of personality; as such it serves an adaptive function for coping with reality. But at the same time the emergence of a belief system may be affected by developmental problems encountered in personality formation; if so, beliefs may then also serve ego defensive functions vis-a-vis unconscious wishes and anxieties.
In this connection, Leites argued that the fact that beliefs comprising the operational code appeared to be held with unusual stubbornness, exaggeration, and intensity raised the presumption that adherence to them was reinforced by defenses against strong unconscious wishes or fears and, hence, that they were relatively impervious to many kinds of rational tests. (We shall return to this point below).
This point was well made recently by John Weakland in a perceptive and balanced appraisal of A Study of Bolshevism. Weakland notes that Leites’ work is “remarkably simple in overall organization, and for a work aiming to present a code, it gives little attention to synthesis and systematization. … We are presented with a list of themes, but these parts of the code are not interrelated. … And there is even less attention given to questions of more complex structure, such as possible relationships between themes or principles of different levels. …” John H. Weakland, “Investigating the Operational Code of the Chinese Communist Leadership,” an unpublished paper written for the Politburo Feasibility Study Conference, Stanford University, 16–18 December 1966.
For a more general discussion of political belief systems, see Lucian W. Pye and Sidney Verba (eds.), Political Culture and Political Development (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1965), particularly the ‘Introduction’ by L. Pye and “Conclusion: Comparative Political Culture” by S. Verba.
These were considered by Leites in Study especially pp. 99–144.
In recent years a number of social scientists have attempted to draw upon the field of cognitive psychology in order to elaborate better decisionmaking models for studies of world politics. While cognitive theory is relevant and suggestive, it does not lend itself readily to the task. Considerable adaption and development is needed. In particular, investigators will have to articulate the substantive beliefs and cognitive problems that are relevant in decision-making in political settings, and they will also have to define more specifically the special contexts in which these political beliefs originate, operate in decision-making, and change. For a useful discussion and statement of a still quite general model, see Richard A. Brody, “Cognition and Behavior: A Model of International Relations,” in O. G. Harvey (ed.), Experience, Structure, and Adaptability (New York: Springer, 1966).
For useful discussions of these cognitive limits and some of their implications in the arena of political decision-making, see James G. March and Herbert A. Simon, Organizations (New York: John Wiley, 1958); and Charles E. Lindblom, “The Science of ‘Muddling Through,’” Public Administration Quarterly, 29 (Spring 1959), pp. 79–88. Lindblom’s views have been elaborated in subsequent publications.
For interesting developments in this direction, however, see Albert Hirschman’s effort to identify some characteristic features of the problem-solving and decision-making styles of Latin American reform leaders, in his Journeys Toward Progress (New York: Twentieth Century Fund, 1963); and the research by Wendell Bell and James Mau on “images of the future” as a key variable in social change in developing countries.
For insightful essays on some of these questions see, for example, David S. McLelland, “The Role of Political Style: A Study of Dean Acheson,” in Roger Hilsman and Robert C. Good (eds.), Foreign Policy in the Sixties (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1965); Peter Gourevitch, “Political Skill: A Case Study,” in John D. Montgomery and Arthur Smithies (eds.), Public Policy (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1965), especially pp. 266–68; Erwin C. Hargrove, Presidential Leadership: Personality and Political Style (New York: Macmillan, 1966). Michael Brecher, “Elite Images and Foreign Policy Choices: Krishna Menon’s View of the World,” Pacific Affairs, 40 (Spring and Summer, 1967). Systematic research on presidential leadership styles is currently being undertaken by Professor James David Barber, Department of Political Science, Yale University.
I have borrowed here and adapted the general distinction between ‘epistemological’ and ‘instrumental’ beliefs made by O. G. Brim, D. C. Glass, D. E. Lavin, and N. Goodman, Personality and Decision Processes: Studies in the Social Psychology of Thinking (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1962). In attempting to apply their useful distinction to the subject matter of the “operational code” I have found it necessary to formulate differently the specific issues and questions related to the problem of political action.
Leites himself did not overlook these problems or oversimplify the task of utilizing the operational code, with its ambiguous and inconsistent prescriptions, for explaining or predicting Soviet behavior. See Study pp. 16–18.
This point has been emphasized particularly in the writings of Charles E. Lindblom. See also March and Simon, op. cit, pp. 139, 151.
The summary presented here is drawn from Study, pp. 27–30 (“Politics Is a War”) and pp. 429–41 (“Who-Whom?”).
For this reason, it is of particular interest that in his more recent work Leites has found indications of an amelioration in the Soviet leaders’ image of their opponent.
On this point see, for example, Robert E. Osgood, Ideals and Self– interest in America’s Foreign Relations (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1953); and Kenneth Waltz, Man, the State and War (New York: Columbia University Press, 1959).
The summary which follows draws from Study, pp. 404–16 (“The Incessant Danger of Attack,” and “The Uncertainty of Survival Before Victory”).
The summary presented here draws from Study, pp. 32, 77–85 (“Unpredictable Aspects of the Future”).
See Study, pp. 85–92 (“Transforming Opportunities Into Realities”).
See Study, pp. 67–73 (“The Denial of Accidents”).
See Study, pp. 49, 264–68.
The discussion of this question draws from and freely interprets materials in Study, pp. 32, 77–92, 47–49, 514–24.
On this point see, for example, March and Simon, op. cit., pp. 140–41, 169.
During the course of efforts to assess Soviet intentions in placing missiles in Cuba, Charles Bohlen, a leading U.S. specialist on the Soviet Union, cited one of Lenin’s adages which compared national expansion to a bayonet drive: If you strike steel, pull back; if you strike mush, keep going. Theodore C. Sorenson, Kennedy (New York: Harper and Row, 1965), p. 677.
For a discussion of the possibility that the Bolshevik tendency to push to the limit led to an underestimation of the undesired consequences of such conduct, see Leites, Study, pp. 33–34, 36–37, 39.
In the Cuban missile crisis U.S. policy-makers at first entertained various theories, partly overlapping and partly divergent, as to Soviet intentions. They seem to have settled on an interpretation that avoided attributing to the Soviet leaders a single motive in favor of a theory that the Soviets expected that the deployment of missiles would give them prospects for a variety of specific gains in foreign policy. See particularly Roger Hilsman, To Move a Nation (New York: Doubleday, 1967), pp. 161–65, 201–02; and Theodore C. Sorensen, op. cit. pp. 676–78.
See Study, pp. 30–34, 505–12, 442–49, 52–53, 514–24.
A similar “tension of opposites” has been noted in the Chinese Communist approach to the problem of strategy and action. See Tang Tsou and Morton H. Halperin, op. cit., p. 89.
For a discussion of these maxims, see Study, pp. 55–57, 449–61, 46–47, 57–60, 475–503. See also N. Leites, Kremlin Thoughts: Yielding, Rebuffing, Provoking, Retreating, The RAND Corporation, RM-3618-ISA (May 1963).
See, for example, R. E. Osgood, Limited War (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1957); W. W. Kaufmann, “Limited Warfare,” in Kaufmann (ed.) Military Policy and National Security (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1956); Morton H. Halperin, Limited War in the Nuclear Age (New York: John Wiley, 1963).
See Study, p. 34.
See Study, pp. 34–42.
This would appear to apply also to the Chinese Communist leadership. (See the forthcoming report by Robert C. North on the Stanford University conference which considered the feasibility of research on the Chinese politburo.) Among those scholars who have examined the problem of evaluating and changing beliefs about the opponent are Morton Deutsch, William Gamson, Andrea Modigliani, John Kautsky, Charles E. Osgood, Amitai Etzioni, Ralph K. White, Milton Rokeach and Joseph deRivera.
Kremlin Moods, The RAND Corporation, RM-3535-ISA (January 1964), p. 126.
Ibid., p. 91.
Ibid., pp. 164–66.
Ibid., p. 211.
The importance of Stalin’s personality for his political behavior has been emphasized particularly by Robert Tucker. See his “The Dictator and Totalitarianism,” World Politics, (July 1965), and his earlier analysis, “Stalinism and the World Conflict,” Journal of International Affairs, 8, No. 1 (1954).
Interestingly, Khrushchev’s period also saw the emergence of a less favorable image of the United States as an opponent. There was both less idealization of, and less respect for the U.S. elite than in the old Bolshevik view. The historic class enemy was now perceived as an ‘aging,’ ‘declining’ elite, one which was weaker, less intelligent, less determined than in the past. The changed characteristics imputed to the United States leadership, however, were seen as making it in some respects possibly more dangerous. (See Kremlin Moods, pp. 91–126, 1–13.)
This point was emphasized in Leites’ Kremlin Moods. There is, in the writer’s knowledge, no similar study of further changes in the belief system that may have emerged in the post-Khrushchev era. However, Vernon V. Aspaturian is studying Soviet images of the Kennedy Administration.
Ole Holsti, “Cognitive Dynamics and Images,” D. J. Finlay, O. R. Holsti, and R. R. Fagen, Enemies in Politics (Chicago: Rand McNally, 1957).
For example, Arnold Horelick, “The Cuban Missile Crisis: Analysis of Soviet Calculations and Behavior” World Politics 16 (April 1964).
- The ‘Operational Code’: A Neglected Approach to the Study of Political Leaders and Decisionmaking
Alexander L. George
- Chapter 8
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