Document created: 20 July 06
Air & Space Power Journal - Winter 2006
Interagency Fratricide: Policy Failures in the Persian Gulf and Bosnia by Maj Vicki J. Rast. Air University Press (http://www.au.af.mil/au/aul/aupress), 131 West Shumacher Avenue, Maxwell AFB, Alabama 36112-6615, 2004, 458 pages, $42.00 (softcover), http://www.au.af.mil/au/aul/aupress/Books/Rast/newrast.pdf.
Vicki J. Rast, now a lieutenant colonel at the US Air Force Academy, has written an important study that officers assigned to high-level staff positions should read with care. Rast conducted interviews with 135 people involved in the decision-making process in the administrations of George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton, including H. Norman Schwarzkopf, Brent Scowcroft, John M. Shalikashvili, Condoleezza Rice, Lawrence S. Eagleburger, Richard B. Cheney, and other prominent individuals. Although the author identifies all the interviewees at the end of the book, she quotes them anonymously within the text. Drawing upon these interviews, she contends in a clearly stated thesis that “in the final analysis, the gap between diplomats and war fighters dominates an interagency process likely to produce a policy that brings about war termination in the form of cease-fire. However, it almost inevitably fails to achieve conflict termination in the form of sustainable peace” (p. xix, emphasis in original).
Using the model of bureaucratic politics pioneered by Graham Allison, Rast contends that people developed decisions based primarily on their administrative position. The result is interagency conflict that, according to her, is the product of five factors: “1. defects in leadership, 2. the absence of strategic vision, 3. dissimilar organization cultures, 4. disparate worldviews, and 5. the absence of an integrated interagency planning mechanism” (pp. xix–xx).
Rast supports these claims effectively throughout this book. However, the first half is loaded with long, dull explanations on topics such as rational-choice theory and conflict-termination models. This material clearly needs to be present, but a reader pressed for time can safely skip it. The study becomes much more informative when Rast analyzes her two case studies, using source material in an effective and interesting fashion to support her claims. Many times readers feel as if they are there alongside the policy makers.
Although the author has produced a useful study, it raises certain questions. That interagency disputes existed is clearly irrefutable, but was it all that important? Was the inability to produce a sustainable peace the product of these disagreements between various bureaucracies, or was it the product of fundamentally flawed policies? If so, then these bureaucratic disputes might have played only secondary roles. These small questions notwithstanding, Rast has produced an informative and useful study for both the academic intellectual and the practitioner.
Dr. Nicholas Evan Sarantakes
University of Southern Mississippi
The conclusions and opinions expressed in this document are those of the author cultivated in the freedom of expression, academic environment of Air University. They do not reflect the official position of the U.S. Government, Department of Defense, the United States Air Force or the Air University.