Ballots, Bullets, and Bargains: American Foreign Policy and Presidential Elections

Columbia Univ. (Studies in Terrorism & Irregular Warfare). Aug. 2015. 288p. notes. index. ISBN 9780231169929. $35; ebk. ISBN 9780231539135. POL SCI
"The U.S. presidential election system was not designed for the efficient pursuit of foreign policy objectives," writes Armacost (Shorenstein Distinguished Fellow, Walter H. Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Ctr., Stanford Univ.; Friends or Rivals??), a former president of the Brookings Institution and longtime diplomat. He goes into detail in this highly organized book on the post-World War II era, in chapters addressing the nomination process, campaigns, postelection transition periods, and the launch of new terms. Armacost looks at the differing forces at work on incumbent and challenger respectively in each section, providing concrete examples, such as why the new John F. Kennedy administration didn't closely examine inherited plans for the Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961, and how the Balkan crisis looked different to candidate Bill Clinton in 1992 than it did to President Clinton in 1995 as he prepared for his 1996 reelection campaign.
VERDICT Readers will find this a useful, accessible survey of the topic, enriched by Armacost's firsthand recollections from his diplomatic career, which includes the Japanese ambassadorship.
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