Leaders, Bureaucracy, and Miscalculation in International Crisis

Tyler Jost

Brown University

October 26, 2022 12:00PM


When does bureaucracy make states prone to miscalculate in international crisis? International relations scholarship often assumes that bureaucracy increases the propensity for miscalculation, but offers comparatively few insights into what makes bureaucracy in some states more prone to miscalculation than in others. I develop a theory of crisis miscalculation that emphasizes variation in institutional relationships between political leaders and foreign policy bureaucracies. I argue that two dimensions of these institutions -- the capacity for information search and inter-bureaucratic information sharing -- help explain why some states are more prone to miscalculate than others. To test my argument, I introduce a novel data set that measures these institutional differences across the globe from 1946 to 2015. Contrary to canonical theories that argue that bureaucratic advice undermines strategic judgment, the analysis finds that institutions that integrate bureaucrats into a leader's decision-making process tend to perform better in international crises than those that exclude them. The theory and findings improve our understanding of how bureaucracy shapes the crisis behavior of modern states.


Tyler Jost’s research focuses on national security decision-making, bureaucratic politics, and Chinese foreign policy. His current book project examines domestic institutions designed to decide and coordinate national security policy, such as the U.S. National Security Council. He completed his doctoral degree in the Department of Government at Harvard University and held postdoctoral fellowships in the International Security Program at the Kennedy School of Government, as well as in the China and the World Program at Columbia University. He completed his undergraduate studies at West Point and served as a military officer with assignments to Afghanistan, U.S. Cyber Command, and the Office of the Secretary of Defense.