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Foreign-Policy Advising: Models and Mysteries from the Bush Administration


  • AUTHOR's NOTE: I would like to thank Ryan Barilleaux, Chris Kelley, Bill Mandel, James Pfiffner, Phil Russo, and Walt Vanderbush for their help and insights.

Patrick J. Haney is professor of political science at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, where he teaches classes on U.S. foreign and national security policy. He is the author of Organizing for Foreign Policy: Presidents, Advisers, and the Management of Decision Making, and the coauthor with Walt Vanderbush of The Cuban Embargo: The Domestic Politics of an American Foreign Policy.


There is a wide range of scholarly approaches to studying presidents, advisers, and foreign-policy making, all aiming to capture the genesis of policy, the “essence of decision.” While we have made some progress in capturing the complexity of how presidents construct foreign-policy advisory processes, and the kinds of ways they wield power so as to control the policy process, our conceptual models may not be keeping up with practice. While a range of theories exists to explain foreign-policy cases of a variety of types, and may do so in discrete ways, we are less able to come to terms with how the foreign-policy process can be both open to a vast range of forces from inside and outside the White House and dominated by the president using unilateral mechanisms of power all at the same time. I use U.S. policy toward Cuba and in Iraq during the first administration of George W. Bush to illustrate this empirical challenge to our conceptual models.