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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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10. “Cocked and Loaded”: A Tale of Premature Escalation


10 “Cocked and Loaded”: A Tale of Premature Escalation

Iran’s nuclear program has alarmed the international community for several decades. However, it has developed into a central concern for U.S. national security officials since the first public revelations of its clandestine uranium-enrichment program surfaced in the early-2000s. Even more unsettling, news of Israeli plans to carry out a large-scale pre-emptive attack on Iran created a greater sense of urgency in placating Iran’s nuclear ambitions (Bergman and Mazzetti, 2019). Both the Bush and Obama administrations rejected persistent Israeli overtures to curtail Iran’s nuclear program through military means. The Obama administration was so concerned with the prospect of Israeli military action against Iran that it strengthened American military forces in the region. In addition, at the end of 2010, the administration initiated secret back-channel negotiations, mediated by Oman, with Iran in an attempt to deescalate the rising tension in the region (Solomon, 2015).

The engagement between the two countries helped ease the mutual tension and resulted in the signing of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in July 2015. The agreement, signed by the U.S., Great Britain, France, Germany, China, Russia, the European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, and Iran, established that Iran would curb its nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of many of the sanctions imposed on it by the United Nations. The JCPOA imposed several constraints on Iran’s behavior: 1) Iran would decrease its stockpile of low-enriched uranium by...

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