Presidential decision-making and the use of force

Date of Completion

January 2009


Political Science, General|Political Science, International Law and Relations




Scholars of international relations have long debated the role of individuals in foreign policy. This study advances a theoretical model that combines insights from systemic level IR theory with individual level scholarship of leader psychology. This dissertation argues that American presidents who score highly in belief in ability to control events and distrust of others but low in conceptual complexity are likely to choose war instead of other policy options. This study uses statistical and case study analysis to reach these conclusions. Moreover, this study also contributes to the methodological literature on leadership trait analysis and further reaffirms the usefulness of the technique in foreign policy analysis and political psychology.^