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Title: All about politics : the American electoral cycle and decision-making in war
Author: Payne, Andrew
ISNI:       0000 0004 9356 2095
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2019
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How does electoral politics affect presidential decision-making in war? As both Commanders-in-Chief and elected officeholders, American presidents must balance the national interest with their often competing interest in political survival when assessing alternative strategies in war. Yet despite the increasing attention paid to domestic political explanations of international relations, surprisingly little has been written on the electoral connection. It can still seem as if the politicians are left out of international politics. Grounded in the field of foreign policy analysis and drawing on the logic of democratic constraint, this thesis argues that electoral pressures in fact play a profound role in wartime decision-making, systematically pushing and pulling the president away from courses of action he perceives to be strategically optimal. Going beyond the existing literature’s focus on cases of conflict initiation, it outlines five mechanisms – delay, dampening, spur, hangover and spoiler – which capture the ways in which electoral considerations shape both decisions to escalate an ongoing conflict and efforts to bring it to a satisfactory conclusion. Rich historical case studies of the wars in Korea, Vietnam and Iraq illustrate how these pressures conform to a rhythm dictated by the electoral cycle. Using a qualitative methodological approach, employing material from extensive archival research and a series of interviews with senior officials, this thesis offers an in-depth look at exactly how electoral constraints have materially affected past decisions. The findings of this thesis carry broader implications for the literature on democracy and war, enriching our understanding of electoral accountability, and provides a new conceptual lens through which scholars can analyse presidential decision-making.
Supervisor: L'Estrange Fawcett, Louise Sponsor: Economic and Social Research Council
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available