Fall 2019 - 59325 - PA 388K - Advanced Topics in Public Policy
The President of the United States is widely regarded as “the most powerful man in the world.” Yet almost every American president feels remarkably powerless while in office, particularly in getting his government to carry out his chosen strategies and policies. Virtually every presidency is beset with dissension and sometimes outright feuding among Cabinet members. The federal bureaucracy is sometimes called the “fourth branch of government” because of its substantial power and ability to resist presidential directives. Congress, constitutionally designed to be a check on executive power, often acts as a further impediment to presidential action. Mindful of these constraints, this class will explore how American presidents design their national security strategies, select and work with their cabinets and staff, and try to implement their policies and decisions. It will take a historical case-study approach, examining a series of US presidents and their foreign policies and practices. It will have a particular focus on the National Security Council, its development and evolution, as an instrument of presidential policy and decision-making.
In preparing students for their own potential policy and scholarly careers, the course will interrogate the case studies for their possible insights for contemporary statecraft. It will equip students to think historically, to deepen their body of knowledge about American political and diplomatic history, to reflect on various forms of effective and ineffective leadership, and to assess the intangible psychological and relational variables that are inseparable from the policy process. It will also explore the development of the national security state and the modern institutions and instruments through which executive power is wielded in the 21st century.