Levels of Analysis

In my intro to Security Studies course, SEST-500, we're currently looking at levels of analysis - system level, state level, and sub-state level. Basically, systemic theories, like liberalism, say that states act in their own interest regardless of internal characteristics. State level theories, like the theory of democratic peace (democracies don't fight other democracies) put more weight on the internal characteristics of states. Sub-state level theories focus on either bureaucratic politics or the influence of individuals.

In light of Congress getting ready to cede yet more authority to the Bush administration for the cause of avoiding "soft-on-terror" ads during elections, it's interesting for me to look at this scenario in the view of both bureaucratic politics and individual influence.

Bureaucratic politics theory says that basically bureaucracies are imperialistic. In an article we had to read for class, Graham Allison looks at the Cuban Missile Crisis and shows how you could see the CIA, Air Force and Navy all fighting for the power/privilege of responding to the Cuban missiles, even at the expense of a coherent and effective national response. Under this model, you would expect Congress to avoid AT ALL COSTS ceding important powers to the Executive, including:
  • Rendering habeus corpus irrelevant
  • Rendering trial-by-jury irrelevant
  • Allowing the President and his appointees to decide who is an enemy combatant (and thus defining who benefits from Constitutional rights and who doesn't)
  • Removing actions of the Executive from the supervision of the Judiciary
An explanation for Congress' ceding of authority that would be consistent with bureaucratic politics would be that Congress believes that it is powerless to stop the Bush administration, and wishes to maintain the appearance of power by formally ceding these powers. I think that's bullshit - given Bush's low approval ratings (highest I've seen in the last year or so is 40%), as well as the reality of the Constitution (unitary executive theory is bullshit) Congress COULD stop Bush from grabbing this power for the Executive, but doesn't. Why?

An answer on the individual level of analysis would point to the individuals who fill Congress. Congressional leaders are sycophantic, corrupt and powerhungry, unwilling to criticize a fellow Republican, fearful of losing the far-Right Evangelical support (the only demographic left that supports Bush) and are brown-nosing the Bush Administration (oops, I mean "bandwagoning") in order to bask in Bush's Christ-annointed power.

An interesting question would be "which level of analysis is more pessimistic and cynical - systemic, which believes war is inevitable, or sub-state, which believes that wars arise out of individual choice?"

No comments: