PRESIDENTS, BUREAUCRATS, AND FOREIGN POLICY: The Politics of Organizational Reform by I. M. Destler
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PRESIDENTS, BUREAUCRATS, AND FOREIGN POLICY: The Politics of Organizational Reform

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A broad, penetrating study of foreign policy decision-making within the executive branch. Destler makes down-to-earth critiques of current proposals for reorganization, with stringent emphasis on the process of bureaucratic bargaining and policy-making within and between departments. He reviews the ""informal policymaking"" arrangements of the Kennedy and Johnson administrations why JFK's worked better than LBJ's; criticizes the Nixon policy base in the White House and Kissinger's multivalent roles; and examines the well-known weaknesses of the State Department. There is a relatively abstruse discussion of staff problems which reinforces the futility of such simplistic solutions as ""cut down the size,"" ""create a new central official,"" and ""separate administration from politics."" Destler proposes a ""State-centered strategy"" with greater policy control at the top and the Secretary of State once again the key foreign policy official. It would require that the Secretary assert a new willingness to deal with ""national security"" matters and insist on some control of the CIA. ""Responsibility, confidence, and communication are the key words, and all must flow both up and down. The cost to the State Department of 'doing its own thing' is the 'little State Department' in the White House basement. The cost to the President of playing too close a hand is the sort of gap between the inner political circle and the broader government which has marred both the Johnson and Nixon Administrations."" Destler assumes nothing about moral or political desiderata beyond the continuance of U.S. world power and the need for a ""purposive and coherent"" policy to that end; thus the book is at right angles to recent criticisms of the bureaucratic mentality and the premises of American foreign policy. As a clinical effort it will be much discussed in government and academic circles, and its strengths are such that all subsequent books on the organizational subjects in question will have to deal with Destler's analyses and recommendations.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1972
Publisher: Princeton Univ. Press