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Three Approaches to Presidential Foreign Policy-Making in the Twenty-First Century

The Executive, the Magistrate, and the Maverick

Luis da Vinha and Anthony Dutton

Political scientists have long determined that a president’s relationships with his advisors is crucial in determining an administration’s policies. Over the last several decades, scholars of the presidency have paid particular attention to the advisory structures and processes involved in foreign policy decision-making. Their work has contributed to the development and refinement of three presidential management models to help frame the analysis of foreign policy-making: (1) formalistic model, (2) collegial model, and (3) competitive model. This book analyzes the management models employed by presidents George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump throughout their presidencies by employing a structured-focus comparison method that is framed on a set of general and standardized questions used to analyze a series of case studies involving their Middle East policies. The book offers the first systematic comparative analysis of presidents Bush, Obama, and Trump’s management of foreign policy crises.
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2. Presidential Management Models


2 Presidential Management Models

Since the late-1940s several attempts have been made to try to provide the president with the institutional support required for formulating and coordinating policy more efficiently. It is commonly accepted that presidents should have access to a broad array of policy perspectives which can help them understand and systematically evaluate the complex political environment such that the most appropriate decisions regarding a specific policy may be derived. A president can turn to his advisors for many reasons – e.g., to satisfy cognitive needs and provide emotional support, understanding and support for decisions, and political legitimacy (George, 1981; ’t Hart, Stern, and Sundelius, 1997). However, advisors are particularly important as sources of information and advice which support policy decisions.1

Most presidential scholars will agree that those individuals “who have expertise, authority, or implementation responsibilities must have a way to get their judgments to the president, or the president will act from an incomplete understanding of the implications of the policy decision” (Pfiffner, 2009: 364). Besides providing the president with the necessary information and analysis regarding the possible alternatives and potential implications of a policy decision, advisors are also crucial in making sure that the president is not overwhelmed by a surge of data and competing proposals. As Andrew Rudalevige (2005) has pointed out, time and cognitive capacity limit the amount of practical information on any given issue a president can receive and process. Therefore, it is up to the president’s staff to help organize...

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