US Defence Policymaking

A 21st-Century Perspective

Authored by: Frank L. Jones

Handbook of Defence Politics

Print publication date:  December  2008
Online publication date:  March  2011

Print ISBN: 9781857434439
eBook ISBN: 9780203804278
Adobe ISBN:


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Winston Churchill once commented that strategic failure ensues because of the ‘total absence of one directing mind and commanding willpower’. 1 While a parliamentary system of government may allow a prime minister, as both head of government and legislative leader, to hold the defence portfolio and simultaneously become that ‘one directing mind’ for the formulation of foreign and defence policy, the US Constitution makes such an approach impossible. Instead, by establishing a system of checks and balances, the founders of the American political system provided the chief executive (the President) and the legislative branch (Congress) with ‘an invitation to struggle’ over the direction of foreign or defence policy. 2 Yet, even that interpretation is not sufficient to understand how foreign and defence policy—or more accurately, national security policy, a collective term encompassing both national defence and foreign relations—is made in the US since a large number of additional actors impinge upon the policymaking process and influence its outcomes.

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