Informing the Leader: Bureaucracies and International Crises


Whether international crises end in conflict frequently depends on the information that leaders possess. To better explain how leaders acquire information, I develop and test an informational theory of bureaucracies during crises. Time-constrained leaders delegate information collection to advisers who lead bureaucracies. A division of labor between bureaucracies breeds comparative specialization among advisers. Some emphasize information on adversaries’ political attributes, which are harder to assess; others stress military attributes, which are easier to assess. Bureaucratic role thus affects the content and uncertainty that advisers provide. I use automated and qualitative coding to measure adviser input in 5,400 texts from US Cold War crises. As hypothesized, advisers’ positions affect the information and uncertainty they convey but not the policies they promote as canonical theories suggest. For individuals advising leaders during crises, what you know depends on where you sit. Consequently, the information leaders possess hinges on which bureaucracies have their attention.

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License CC BY
Type Journal Articles
C-ID POLS 110 - American