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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The multiple advocacy strategy and the role of the custodian : the Carter years Moens, A. Alexander


The increasing complexity and high stakes of foreign policy decisions, especially of major powers such as the United States, have generated specialized studies of decision making. One approach, called "multiple advocacy," maps a strategy of role tasks and process norms to guide the decision-makers towards an optimal decision-making process. This process allows the President to make an informed policy choice as a result of having heard a variety of options debated freely and openly among his advisors in his presence. A crucial actor in this process is the National Security Advisor. As process manager or "custodian," he must ensure that the key provisions of the strategy are met while abstaining from personal involvement in the substance of policy advice and execution. This thesis examines the internal coherence and usefulness of the strategy. The first two years of the Carter administration provide a close approximation of the strategy. Four important policy issues during this period form the empirical basis of this test: the "Deep Cuts" proposals in SALT II, the war in the Horn of Africa, Sino-American Normalization, and the fall of the Shah of Iran. While the basic principles of the strategy are found useful and sound, several of its provisions are challenged. First, in spite of its claim, the strategy does not produce multiple options when the advisors have no wide divergence of opinion. Second, contrary to the strategy's prescriptions, the custodian can improve the process in such situations by joining the policy debate. Third, custodial engagement in activities such as diplomacy and public speaking need not be prohibited too strictly. Last, the demise of the strategy can be more narrowly defined as the result of custodial disregard for a free flow of information and open participation among the advisors. Though further studies are needed to widen the empirical base, several tentative suggestions are offered to improve the strategy. The president must insist on a reasonable range of opinions when appointing advisors. While the National Security Advisor may join the policy debate to widen the range of options, his policy advice should not become the rule. At all times the President must insist that all policy debates among his advisors be brought to his attention, and that all policy options receive a fair hearing.

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