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Source: Ryerson University

U.S. Policy decision-making more autocratic: Ryerson experts

October 23, 2006

Prof. Greg Elmer, Bell Globemedia Research Chair, has co-authored a paper on the Bush government's method of making policy decisions.

The Bush administration's "war on terror" is shredding the ideals of liberal democracy and replacing it with a more autocratic way of making important political decisions, a shift that is very troubling says political media analysts.

"When making important decisions, politicians and governments have traditionally looked to the past to gather information to determine how to solve problems in the future," says Professor Greg Elmer, co-author of a paper and Bell Globemedia Research Chair at Ryerson University. "This has been the mainstream method that governments and corporations have been dealing with issues. But what we suggest in our paper is that increasingly decisions are being made pre-emptively without contemplating past successes and failures."

The paper, "Surviving the Inevitable Future: Preemption In An Age of Faulty Intelligence", was published in the July/September issue of the international journal Cultural Studies.

Elmer and co-author Andy Opel of Florida State University analysed pronouncements made by U.S. intelligence agencies and senior officials in the Bush administration in major America media and in policy documents from the time of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York to 2004.

The researchers found that there has been a definite shift from gathering information and looking at historical evidence to predict future events to simply claiming that certain events are "inevitable", particularly terrorist attacks.

So it's a matter of when, not if, the terrorists will strike again, says Elmer. He and Opel say this logic has ruled much of the political discourse and policy in the U.S.

"This raises questions of jurisprudence and accountability," says Elmer. "When there is a threat raised, the U.S. government doesn't collect evidence to substantiate that threat; there is seemingly no need for proof. That is the most troubling aspect of the preemptive doctrine. It doesn't fit into the law-abiding, decision-making processes of liberal democracies."

Elmer, an associate professor with the School of Radio and Television Arts, fears the Harper government is beginning to mirror the same decision-making model that the U.S. government is using in justifying their role in Afghanistan. "Harper is saying we are a target and the likelihood is that we will be attacked in the Canada, so he is linking military action overseas as a way of protecting against attacks in our country."


Professor Greg Elmer Suelan Toye
Bell Globemedia Chair, RTA Public Affairs
Ryerson University Ryerson University
Office: 416-979-5000 x 5282 Office: 416-979-5000 x 7161



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