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Models of Decision Making

During the height of the cold war, it is known that there was a disparity and tension between John F Kennedy and his Joint Chief of Staff. It can be seen that the differences in opinion between them were mainly based on political opinions. The Joint Chiefs were known to have disapproved of Kennedy's stance on the situation of the Cuban Missile Crisis, and did not like the way he handled the situation, thinking that he did not have the mettle to do what they thought was the correct decision. In a similar nature, Kennedy disagreed with his Joint Chiefs, and reasoned that they were pushing for military action and war with the Soviet Union. This is especially evident during the height of the crisis, when the Chiefs went behind the back of the president and pushed for an escalation of tension between the two nations, with intent to move to Defcon 2, rather than staying at the president's desired Defcon 3, which is what the president ordered. When Kennedy realized these malicious intentions, he took matters into his own hand, and privately contacted a Navy Pilot, avoiding the appropriate chain of command, in the interests of avoiding war. This was evidently the right choice, with an appeal to the theory of 'just war'.

The first ideology of the theory of just war is that first and foremost, there must be a real and justifiable cause for war. In the situation Kennedy was in, there was no tangible harm caused to the US, and so no just cause. The Soviet Union, in the case of transporting weapons to Cuba where they could be launched on a strike against the US, could be seen as intent to cause harm, but nothing more than this. Secondly, war must be for the right reasons. In this way, war needs to be used with a definable end goal, in this case, the peace process. Lastly, war should be the last result, only to be used when every other possibility has been tried and exhausted. This was what President Kennedy kept in the forefront of his mind, and was the reasoning behind his decision by go past the chain of command, and it can be seen as such that this was the right thing to do (Audi, p 458).

Although most of the members in the political system pushed for a blockage as opposed to the military invasion of Cuba and war, there were still many highly powerful and influential members in the Joint Chief of Staff, and the CIA, who were trying for a military solution. Ex-com took these different views in working out the best course of action, and came to the conclusion that the blockade would be the best course of action to take. The blockade was a passive solution, which prevented any more missiles entering Cuba, though it would not solve the problem of the missiles already present in Cuba. It was a democratic option, giving the Soviets the chance to remove the missiles from Cuba however. This decision was based on a rational model, since it was based on practical goals, while allowing for alternative measures and the consideration of consequences. This method of reasoning was based on avoiding the war, as avoiding the war was by far the most beneficial end result for the United States, and was the reason for Kennedy's choice. In contrast to the rational model, the Joint Chiefs were using the political model. By them not revealing important information, and by over generalizing the situation, the Joint Chiefs were trying to force things to promote their own agendas, even though the cost to the United States in doing so would be overwhelming. These were decisions base on personal bias, greed, immorality and self interest.

The two separate decision making methods show that both methods have their upsides and downsides. While this is true, when dealing with large scale international affairs, especially with a situation as important as a nuclear war, the model of rationality is far more apt than the political model, in terms of usefulness. In the end, President Kennedy made the correct decision in not taking the recommendations for war from the Joint Chiefs, and instead following a diplomatic stance for the resolution of the Cuban Missile Crisis.


Audi, Robert, ed. The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy. 2nd ed. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1999.