Shaping and Signaling Presidential Policy

The National Security Decision Making of Eisenhower and Kennedy

978-0-89096-833-8 Cloth
6 x 9 x 0 in
208 pp.
Pub Date: 10/01/1998


  • Cloth $29.95 s
1998 Lawrence A. Stessin Prize for Outstanding Scholarship, presented by Hofstra University
National security strategies are vitally important in international politics because they integrate a nation's broad foreign political goals with the means to achieve those goals, thus helping to shape specific policies. In Shaping and Signaling Presidential Policy: The National Security Decision Making of Eisenhower and Kennedy, Meena Bose compares how Dwight D. Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy developed their Cold War strategies, focusing on how each president's decision-making process shaped his policy. The study also compares how the presidents communicated their strategies, with particular attention to possible signals conveyed to the leaders of the Soviet Union.

Bose analyzes the leadership styles and advisory systems of the two presidents, applying Alexander L. George's concept of "multiple advocacy," which recommends that presidents systematically review a wide range of policy options in a structured setting with their advisers before making a decision. Bose finds that Eisenhower's formal leadership style ensured that he examined alternatives thoroughly with his associates before making policy decisions. Kennedy's informal leadership style increased opportunities for access to the president but also overloaded him with detail. The development of Eisenhower's "New Look" national security strategy illustrates the benefits of multiple advocacy, whereas the development of Kennedy's "Flexible Response" strategy demonstrates the problems with not employing such a process. At a more general level, the study finds that policy planning efforts early in an administration can be of great help to presidents in preparing their agendas.

Bose also finds that multiple advocacy has important payoffs for presidential policy communication in helping to ensure that messages do not convey unintended signals. In the area of national security, where misperceptions can heighten tensions and exacerbate conflicts with adversaries, it is particularly important that an administration's rhetoric be consistent with its policies.

Scholars of the American presidency and American foreign policy will find Shaping and Signaling Presidential Policy a well-written and carefully documented study of presidential decision making and national security policy.

Joseph V. Hughes Jr. and Holly O. Hughes Series on the Presidency and Leadership

Published by Texas A&M University Press