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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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Section 2 President Barack Obama


Section II President Barack Obama

President Barack Obama

Barack Obama ran for the American presidency on a platform of change. While domestic issues were part of his agenda, it was in the realm of foreign affairs that his call for change was most evident (Kitchen, 2017). Obama was particularly opposed to the Iraq war, which he designated as a “dumb war” – in contrast to the “necessary war” in Afghanistan – as well as the Bush administration’s penchant for unilateralism and emphasis on military solutions to international problems (Indyk, Lieberthal, and O’Hanlon, 2012; Kitchen, 2017). Obama’s view of the challenges facing the U.S. was significantly more complex than that of his predecessor. In a 2007 Foreign Affairs article, candidate Obama articulated his view of the international challenges facing America:

This century’s threats are at least as dangerous as and in some ways more complex than those we have confronted in the past. They come from weapons that can kill on a mass scale and from global terrorists who respond to alienation or perceived injustice with murderous nihilism. They come from rogue states allied to terrorists and from rising powers that could challenge both America and the international foundation of liberal democracy. They come from weak states that cannot control their territory or provide for their people. And they come from a warming planet that will spur new diseases, spawn more devastating natural disasters, and catalyze deadly conflicts. (Obama, 2007: 2–3)

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