Academic Year 2007/2008 Spring Semester 2008 Elective „Organizational Failure and Public Policy Disasters“ Professor Wolfgang Seibel Syllabus 1. General Information Class Venue Convener Office Telephone E-Mail Office Hours Every second Friday, starting February 8 HSoG Wolfgang Seibel Breite Straße, Room 0.19 07531 88 2183 email@example.com prior to class meeting in the Adjuncts‘ room
2. Aim of the Course
Organizational Failure (OF) and its prevention is a key-challenge to management and governance in the both the private and the public or ―third‖ (non-profit, non-governmental) sector. OF in the public sector is a politicized phenomenon characterized by biased evaluation, rhetoric of accusation and justification, political entrepreneurship, selective media coverage and scandalizing, political myths and, sometimes, identity-building. Thus, it often implies public policy disasters (PPD) as a classic field of democratic control and debate. Accordingly, the way how OF/PPD is being defined and scrutinized not only is an important indicator of ‗good governance‘ but also of the state of political culture. Reports of investigation committees or the products of ‗investigative journalism‘ are a goldmine – still largely unexploited – of knowledge on OF/PPD and its potential prevention. The course‘s main goal is to instruct students in making in-depth inquiries into complex cases of ill-fated policies and organizations and their causal reconstruction in the light of a chosen theoretical framework. This is done through the analysis of organizational failure and public policy disasters from a variety of perspectives in an attempt to enable students to assess the risks of failure and to contribute to appropriate risk avoidance strategies. The overall purpose is threefold: Academically, the causal reconstruction of organizational failure and public policy disasters is crucial to the understanding of political and administrative pathologies of any kind. Practically, the careful analysis of complex causal interaction is a craft required in the professional sphere many students will be working in. In a normative perspective, finally, acknowledging that both the occurrence and the causal reconstruction of political and administrative pathologies takes place in a highly politicized environment that challenges non-partisan, thoroughgoing analyses is crucial to the development of professional skills that combine sound democratic values with goal-oriented pragmatism. After all, understanding the nature of public policy disasters instils a sober perception of the role of academics and intellectuals as public officials: Since David Halberstam‘s classic account on the Vietnam Disaster (―The Best and the Brightest‖, 1972) – and, as one could add, Errol Morris‘ award-winning documentary ―The Fog of War‖ (2004) – we know that high-calibre intellectual capabilities do not prevent public officials from making tragic choices leading to disastrous outcomes.
2 3. Rationale of Course Structure
The course combines a series of theoretical approaches to OF/PPD with well documented empirical cases of clear and undisputed failure. Students will learn to discriminate the human and the structural causes of failure. While the human aspect pertains to lack of skills, selective perception and collective action problems, the structural aspect mainly concerns an illsuited configuration of technological, organizational and institutional components. The theoretical part of the course is devoted to (a) the agency perspective focusing on lack/misallocation of skills (failed coordination, lack of leadership), cognitive failure (misperceptions, group think) and collective action problems (principal-agent issues and similar dilemmas, ‗garbage can‘ style of decision making) and (b) the structural perspective pertaining to structural failure (path dependencies, partial modernization, tight coupling/complex interaction) and ill-suited institutional design (veto-point syndrome, organized unaccountability). Empirical cases to be analyzed are the Three Miles Island nuclear plant disaster (1979), the collapse of the UN mission and the subsequent genocide in Rwanda (1994), the inability of the international community to protect the UN ―safe area‖ Srebrenica in July 1995, the UN Oil-for-Food programme for Iraq (1996-2003), the disaster of US/UK foreign and security policy in Iraq since 2003, and the current failure of the international community to stop the genocidal violence against the population of the west-Sudanese province of Darfur. Almost all of these cases have been subject to governmental and/or institutional investigation resulting in detailed reports and more or less extended coverage through scholarly literature and the media. Criteria for case selection have been, besides availability of documented information, relevance in terms of undisputed failure and political significance as well as a combination of organizational and policy failure. All cases represent very serious incidents of failure with human lives at stake or even large-scale casualties. They, nonetheless, demonstrate that even the most tragic outcomes of organizational failure and public policy disasters often emerge out of banal circumstances. And at least one of the cases – Darfur – is a dramatic example of how climate change and the absence of accountable government may create conflict and large-scale violence. The Three Miles Island nuclear plant disaster of 1979, thoroughly analyzed in Charles Perrow‘s book ―Normal Accidents‖ (1984), reveals a combination of administrative failure and negligence of obvious technological risks as causal factors of a nearcatastrophy. Moreover, both the disaster itself and Perrow‘s book were a welcome confirmation of the anti-nuclear movement‘s worst scenarios and, thus, influential in shaping the policy debate on nuclear energy world-wide. The collapse of the UN mission in Rwanda (UNAMIR) in 1994 not only led, proportionally, to the worst case of genocide after the Holocaust but also triggered an intense debate within in the United Nations that ultimately resulted in the ―Report of the Panel on United Nations Peace Operations‖, known as the Brahimi-Report, issued in August 2000, containing far-reaching recommendations on the appropriate design of UN peacekeeping missions many of which are far from being implemented still today. The inability of the international community to protect the UN ―safe area‖ Srebrenica during the Bosnian war, resulting in the murder of some 7,000—8,000 muslim males in July 1995, is one of the worst disasters in international public politics after the end of World War II. The Srebrenica massacre not only left a deep imprint in the collective memory of the muslim population in the region, it was also influential in shaping international politics since it decisively contributed to the determination of NATO and EU member states to put an end to the ongoing ethnic cleansing and violence in the former Yugoslavia.
The United Nations‘ Oil-for-Food programme for Iraq (1996-2003) emerged into the worst crisis of the UN system since decades, directly involving the Secretary General and his entourage. The conglomerate of high politics, political rivalry, mismanagement and corruption revealed by the report of the Independent Inquiry Committee into the United Nations Oil-for-Food Programme led by former Federal Reserve chairman Paul A. Volcker in September 2005 is a textbook case of organizational failure and public policy disaster at the highest levels. The disaster of US/UK foreign and security policy in Iraq since 2003 will shape international relations and geopolitical strategies for a long time to come. What both lucid reports by well-informed journalists and the November 2006 report of the Iraq Study Group chaired by James A. Baker III. and Lee Hamilton reveal is that strategic failure is a multi-layer, multi-facetted phenomenon that neither can be reduced to political misconception nor to professional dilettantism but in the present case, rather, can be attributed to a combination of ideology-driven political resolve and the by-passing of regular institutional settings at both the international, the national and the administrative level. The failure of the international community to stop – let alone prevent – the genocidal violence against the population of the west-Sudanese province of Darfur is the most recent example of large-scale disasters in international public politics. Unlike Rwanda in 1994, however, where the genocide was the sudden thus unexpected aggravation of civil war related violence, the mass murder in Darfur is known to the international community since years and, yet, has not led to decisive counter-measures. Analyzing why the international community remains inert although it officially subscribes to the responsibility to protect humans against massive human rights abuses and genocidal action is both an academic and an ethical challenge.
4. Course Requirements
Students will be requested to work with a chosen case throughout the seminar and to reanalyze it through the lenses of at least two theoretical approaches. Therefore, each student has to prepare a ‗theory briefing‘ to be presented in class as well as an extended report on a selected case. Both reports should be accompanied by a hand-out of no more than 600 words (2 pages, theory briefing) or 1,200 words (case study). A seminar paper of 2 x 1,500 words in the form of an extended outline of the two handouts is due May 15, 2007. The course is divided into two main parts covering the theoretical approaches (sessions 3-6) and the empirical cases (sessions 7-12). Empirical material not available in the internet will be put on the reserve shelf in the library.
5. Basic Readings
Theory Akerlof, George A.: The Market for 'Lemons': Quality Uncertainty and the Market Mechanism". Quarterly Journal of Economics 84 (1970):488–500 Cohen, Michael D./James G. March/Johan P. Olsen: A garbage Can Model of Organizational Choice. Administrative Science Quarterly 17 (1972):1-25. Graham T. Allison/Philip Zelikow: Essence of Decision. Explaining the Cuban Missile Crisis, 2nd ed., Boston: Little Brown & Company 1999. Gray, Pat, and Paul ‗t Hart (eds.). Public Policy Disasters in Western Europe. London: Routledge 1998. Merton, Robert K.: The Unanticipated Consequences of Social Action . In: On Social Structure and Science, Chicago: University of Chicago Press 1996, chapter 15.
Perrow, Charles: Complex Organizations. A Critical Essay. 3rd pr., New York: McGraw-Hill 1993. Pierson, Paul: Increasing Returns, Path Dependence, and the Study of Politics. American Political Science Review 94 (2000):251-267. Janis, Irving L.: Group Think. Psychological Studies of Political Decisions and Fiascoes, 2nd ed., Boston: Houghton Mifflin 1982. Jervis, Robert: Perceptions and Misperceptions in International Politics, Princeton University Press 1976. Seibel, Wolfgang: ―Successful Failure. An Alternative View on Organizational Coping.‖ American Behavorial Scientist 39 (1996):1011-1024. Seibel, Wolfgang: The ‗Responsibility to Protect‘ and Modern Protectorates – UN Peace Operations as Successfully Failing Ventures. Paper for the Conference ―The New Protectorates: International Administration and the Dilemmas of Governance‖, Cambridge University, June 6—8, 2007, unpublished manuscript. Seibel, Wolfgang: Moderne Protektorate als Ersatzstaat: UN-Friedensoperationen und Dilemmata internationaler Übergangsverwaltungen; to appear in: Politische Vierteljahresschrift, Sonderheft 2008, „Governance in Räumen begrenzer Staatlichkeit―, Gunnar Folke Schuppert/Michael Zürn (eds.). Tetlock, Philip E.: Expert Political Judgment: How Good is it? How Can we Know? Princeton University Press 2006. Tsebelis, George: Veto Players. How Political Institutions Work, Princeton University Press 2002. Cases Barnett, Michael. Eyewitness to a Genocide: The United Nations and Rwanda. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2002. Des Forges, Alison: Leave None to Tell the Story. Genocide in Rwanda, New York/Paris: Human Rights Watch 1999. House of Commons, Defence Committee: UK Land Operations in Irak 2007. 3 December 2007. Independent Inquiry Committee into the United Nations‘ Oil-for-Food Programme, The Management of the United Nations‘ Oil-for-Food Programme, September 2005, http://www.iicoffp.org/documents/Sept05/Mgmt_V1.pdf International Crisis Group: Darfur – Revitalising the Peace Process. Africa Report No. 125, 30 April 2007. Netherlands Institute for War Documentation: Srebrenica. A ‗safe‘ area. Reconstruction of the background, consequences and analyses of the fall of a safe area. Amsterdam 2002. http://www.srebrenica.nl/en/index.htm (also available on CD-ROM upon request). The Iraq Study Group Report, James A. Baker III and Lee H. Hamilton, Co-Chairs, Washington D.C. November 2006, http://www.usip.org/isg/iraq_study_group_report/report/1206/ iraq_study_group_report.pdf Perrow, Charles. Normal Accidents. Living with High.Risk Technologies . Princeton University Press 1999. Piiparinen, Touko: The Lessons of Darfur for the Future of Humanitarian Intervention. In: Global Governance 13 (2007):365—390. Prunier, Gérard: Darfur. The Ambiguous Genocide, London: Hurst & Company 2005. Ricks, Thomas A. Fiasco. The American Military Adventure in Iraq. New York: Penguin Books 2006.
6. Course Programme
Session 1 February 8, 2008 Introduction
―The Fog of War‖, by Errol Morris, winner of the Academy Award (Oscar) 2005 for the best documentary, featuring Robert S. McNamara. Part A Theoretical Approaches to Organizational Failure and Public Policy Disasters Session 2 February 8, 2008 Overview: Generic Theories of Failure – or Why it is Useful to Apply Several Theories to one and the Same Case.
Graham T. Allison/Philip Zelikow: Essence of Decision. Explaining the Cuban Missile Crisis, nd 2 ed., Boston: Little Brown & Company 1999. Joachim Blatter/Till Blume: In search of co-variance, causal mechanisms or congruence? Tord wards a plural understanding of case studies. Paper presented at the 103 Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association, Chicago, August 30 – September 2, 2007 (available through convenor).
Session 3 February 22, 2008 (a) Latent Functions and Unanticipated Consequences of Social Action
Robert K. Merton, Manifest and Latent Functions, in: ders., Social Theory and Social Structure, 1968 enl. ed., New York: The Free Press, 73-138. Robert K. Merton, The Unanticipated Consequences of Social Action . In: On Social Structure and Science, Chicago: University of Chicago Press 1996, chapter 15.
(b) Organizational Complexity and Tight Coupling
Charles Perrow: Complex Organizations. A Critical Essay, 3 ed., New York: McGraw-Hill 1993 :146-154.
Session 4 February 22, 2008 (a) Garbage-Can Style Decision Making
Michael D. Cohen/James G. March/Johan P. Olsen: A garbage can model of organizational choice. Administrative Science Quarterly 17 (1972):1-25.
(b) Path Dependence, Institutional Inertia, and Bureaucratization
Paul Pierson: Increasing Returns, Path Dependence, and the Study of Politics. American Political Science Review 94 (2000):251-267. Michael Barnett/Martha Finnemore: The Politics, Power, and Pathologies of International Organizations. International Organization 53 (1999):699-732. Michael Barnett/Martha Finnemore: International Organizations as Bureaucracies, in: Barnett/Finnemore, Rules for the World. International Organizations in Global Politics, Ithaca: Cornell University Press 2004:16-44.
Session 5 February 29, 2008 (a) Group Think and Misperceptions
Irving L. Janis: Group Think. Psychological Studies of Political Decisions and Fiascoes, 2 ed., Boston: Houghton Mifflin 1982. Robert Jervis: Perceptions and Misperceptions in International Politics, Princeton University Press 1976.
(b) Preference Falsification
Timur Kuran: Private Truths and Public Lies. The Social Consequences of Preference Falsification, Cambridge (Mass.): Harvard University Press 1995.
Session 6 February 29, 2008 (a) Veto Players
George Tsebelis: Veto Players. How Political Institutions Work, Princeton University Press 2002.
(b) Information Asymmetries and Principal-Agent Dilemmas
George A. Akerlof:The Market for 'Lemons': Quality Uncertainty and the Market Mechanism". Quarterly Journal of Economics 84 (1970):488–500 Wolfgang Seibel: Successful Failure. An Alternative View on Organizational Coping. The American Behavioral Scientist 39 (1996):1011-1024.
Part B Cases Sessions 7 + 8 (5 hrs) March 7, 2008 (a) The Three Miles Island nuclear plant disaster (1979)
Charles Perrow: Normal Accidents. Living with High-Risk Technologies . Princeton University Press 1999.
(b) The collapse of the UN mission and the subsequent genocide in Rwanda (1994)
Alison Des Forges: Leave None to Tell the Story. Genocide in Rwanda, New York/Paris: Human Rights Watch 1999. Touko Piiparinen: Putting the Cart before the Horse – Statebuilding, Early Warning, and the Irrationality of Bureaucratic Rationalization. Journal of Intervention and State Building 1 (2007): 355-378.
Sessions 9 + 10 (5 hrs) April 4, 2008 (a) The Failure of EU & UN in Bosnia and the Srebrenica massacre 1995
Netherlands Institute for War Documentation: Srebrenica. A ‗safe‘ area. Reconstruction of the background, consequences and analyses of the fall of a safe area. Amsterdam 2002. http://www.srebrenica.nl/en/index.htm
(b) The UN Oil-for-Food programme for Iraq (1996-2003)
Independent Inquiry Committee into the United Nations‘ Oil-for-Food Programme, The Management of the United Nations‘ Oil-for-Food Programme, September 2005, http://www.iicoffp.org/documents/Sept05/Mgmt_V1.pdf
Sessions 11 + 12 (5 hrs) April 18, 2007 (a) The disaster of US/UK foreign and security policy in Iraq since 2003
Thomas A. Ricks: Fiasco. The American Military Adventure in Iraq. New York: Penguin Books 2006.
House of Commons, Defence Committee: UK Land Operations in Irak 2007. 3 December 2007.
(b) Darfur and the Inaction of the International Community
International Crisis Group: Darfur – Revitalising the Peace Process. Africa Report No. 125, 30 April 2007. Touko Piiparinen: The Lessons of Darfur for the Future of Humanitarian Intervention. In: Global Governance 13 (2007):365—390.