Making foreign policy: Presidential management, advisors and the foreign policy decision-making process

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Political Science


Margaret Hermann


Foreign policy, Presidential, Management, Advisors, Decision-making, Nixon administration, Carter administration

Subject Categories

International Relations | Political Science | Public Administration | Public Affairs, Public Policy and Public Administration | Social and Behavioral Sciences


Presidents play a critical role in the formulation of United States foreign policy, however the presidential studies literature and foreign policy analysis literature arrive at very different conclusion regarding how presidents influence the policy process and both are often inaccurate. This study develops an Advisory Theory of Decision-Making to address how presidents influence the decision-making process and, as a consequence, overcome the deficiencies of both the presidential studies and foreign policy literature's. This study argues that four different types of decision-making processes are produced by a president's choice of advisory structure and level of centralization. In addition, the study identifies "unstructured solutions" that indicate how the advisors and president choose to resolve disagreements over policy deliberations, thereby providing an indication of the decision outcome. The identified decision-making processes and their associated decision outcomes are examined using four cases of decision-making on security policy drawn from the Nixon (Vietnam War), Carter (Strategic Arms Limitation Talks II), Reagan (Strategic Arms Reduction Talks I), and Clinton (Bosnia conflict) administrations. The case studies are constructed using the method of Structured-Focused Comparisons, in which a set of theoretically based questions and anticipated observations to those questions are developed in order to guide the research and allow for comparison of decision-making within and between cases.


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