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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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8. Defining and Redefining the “Red Line” on Syria’s Chemical Weapons


8 Defining and Redefining the “Red Line” on Syria’s Chemical Weapons

Already engulfed in the aftermath of Hosni Mubarak’s resignation in Egypt and the international military intervention in Libya, developing events in Syria placed the Obama administration once again in a reactive state. Beginning in March 2011, activists inspired by the uprisings in the region took to the streets to protest the regime led by Bashar al-Assad. As demonstrations spread across Syria, the authorities violently dispersed protesters and arrested dozens of demonstrators (The New York Times, 2011). President Obama issued a statement on April 8, 2011 condemning the violence used in repressing the protesters. He called upon “the Syrian authorities to refrain from any further violence against peaceful protestors” and for an end to “the arbitrary arrests, detention, and torture of prisoners” (Obama, 2011a). A few days later, in the city of Dara’a, Syrian armed forces tried to suppress popular protests by force, leading to the arrest of dozens of additional demonstrators and the deaths of at least 25 people (Shadid, 2011).

As a result of the escalating violence, on May 18, 2011, the administration imposed sanctions on Bashar al-Assad and six other senior Syrian officials, freezing any personal assets held in American financial institutions and prohibiting monetary exchanges with them. This action also underscored a noticeable rhetorical escalation by the administration. Prior to the imposition of the sanctions, the administration had refrained from openly calling for the resignation of Assad (Myers and Shadid, 2011). However,...

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