Does Context Matter? Advisory Systems and the Management of the Foreign Policy Decision-Making Process


David Mitchell is an assistant professor of political science at Bucknell University. He is the author of Making Foreign Policy, and his research interests include leadership styles, small group decision making, US foreign policy, and Indian foreign policy.


In examining the management of the foreign policy process, scholars have determined that variations in management style have implications for how the policy process is organized and how policy is deliberated. The research has been less attentive to how management varies depending on the issue area. This study examines the decision making of the Bill Clinton administration and compares the management of foreign policy on concurrent international economic and security issues. I find that there is little variation between cases in management style, but important differences within cases resulting from advisor influence and contextual factors. By examining the potential variations between issue areas, it is possible to better understand the connections between decision-making process, context, and the effectiveness of certain management styles.