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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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6. A “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” Moment: Obama’s Surge in Afghanistan


6 A “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” Moment: Obama’s Surge in Afghanistan

President Barack Obama inherited two wars from his immediate predecessor: Afghanistan and Iraq. Contrary to initial expectations, when Obama arrived in the White House in January 2009, the situation in Afghanistan was calamitous. The Taliban and other insurgent groups had expanded their presence throughout the country and imposed heavy casualties on American and allied forces, as well as on the Afghan population (Indurthy, 2011). Moreover, as the human and material costs of the war mounted, public support began to dwindle in the U.S. (Good, 2011).

Throughout his presidential campaign, Obama emphasized the need to refocus America’s military commitment in Afghanistan. Contrary to what he considered to be a “dumb war” in Iraq, Obama believed that Afghanistan and Pakistan were the frontline in combating global terrorism, particularly that inspired by al-Qaeda (National Public Radio, 2009; Obama, 2007). In a foreign policy speech delivered on July 15, 2008, candidate Obama (2008a) promised that, after withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq, his second strategic goal would be “taking the fight to al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan.” Once elected, he promised to send at least two additional combat brigades to Afghanistan and seek greater force contributions from the NATO allies. In addition to increasing support for training the Afghan security forces, Obama also proposed providing an additional $1 billion yearly aid program of non-military assistance to fight corruption and support economic investments outside of Kabul.

Obama’s initial assessment corresponded...

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