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Keywords:

  • poliheuristic theory;
  • decision theory;
  • foreign policy analysis

In recent years, more than 40 articles and chapters have utilized Poliheuristic Theory to analyze critical decisions made by foreign leaders and U.S. presidents. In this paper, I introduce the Poliheuristic Procedure—a series of steps that one can use to explain or predict decisions by world leaders. Subsequent articles in this Symposium present examples of poliheuristic analyses of decisions made by Presidents Carter, Clinton, Gorbachev, Mussaref and Saddam Hussein. These case studies provide strong support for Poliheuristic Theory: leaders use a two-stage process in making decisions: they first use simple heuristics to eliminate alternatives based on the avoid-major-political-loss principle, and then use more analytic calculations in selecting an alternative from a subset of surviving alternatives.