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The Change toward Cooperation in the George W. Bush Administration’s Nuclear Nonproliferation Policy toward North Korea


Jonas Schneider

This book offers a case study in foreign policy change: It examines why the Bush administration suddenly redirected its nuclear nonproliferation policy toward North Korea in the aftermath of North Korea’s first nuclear test in October 2006, abandoning its former confrontational approach in favor of a more accommodating line. Existing explanations of this course reversal draw on the security implications of a growing crisis on the Korean Peninsula, U.S. domestic politics, and changing decision-making dynamics within the Bush administration. Employing before-after comparison, the study refutes these accounts – and it offers an alternative explanation: The Bush administration altered its nonproliferation policy toward North Korea toward a cooperative course because after the nuclear test, it perceived fundamentally improved prospects for fruitful cooperation on North Korea’s denuclearization.


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8 The Decision-Making Process within the Bush Administration 131


8 The Decision-Making Process within the Bush Administration The three preceding chapters have analyzed and evaluated the explanatory value of three potential independent variables for explaining the post-nuclear-test alte- ration of the Bush administration’s nonproliferation policy toward North Korea, which is the dependent variable. The one variable that is still to be examined is the internal decision-making process of the change in the Bush administration’s nuclear nonproliferation policy toward North Korea, which forms the interven- ing variable in this study as it causally connects the independent variables to the dependent variable. Significantly, during the period when the Bush administration altered its nonproliferation policy toward North Korea, there was substantial variation in one element of the decision-making process of this policy—the composition of the administration’s foreign policy team—that was unrelated to the above- mentioned independent variables. In theory, these personnel changes could have played two different roles in the causal process leading to the redirection of the administration’s nonproliferation policy toward the North: a potential indepen- dent variable or a potential conditioning variable that influenced the intervening variable in the form of the decision-making process. Had all three potential in- dependent variables examined so far lacked any explanatory value, the person- nel changes would form a possible independent variable of its own. Because one of the three potential independent variables could be shown to account for the shift in U.S. policy, however, the changes in personnel constitute a potential conditioning variable for the decision-making process as the intervening varia-...

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