Author's School

University College

Author's Department/Program

International Affairs


English (en)

Date of Award

January 2010

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Chair and Committee

Ewan Harrison


Despite vast literature on American foreign policy and presidential decision-making, little attention has been given to the problems associated with presidential transitions. The American presidential transition period is accompanied by three limitations that threaten the effectiveness of presidential authority. First, presidential authority is unclear in the ambiguity of the transition period. Second, new administrations struggle to incorporate overlapping initiatives and personnel into new policies and priorities. Third, inexperience can cripple a new administration in the first few months of a presidency. These limitations are illustrated by an analysis of two transitional foreign policy crises: the Bay of Pigs crisis overlapping the Eisenhower and Kennedy administrations and the Somalia intervention overlapping the Bush and Clinton administrations. This analysis demonstrates the importance of transitional limitations as independent variables which are magnified by other issues including groupthink, bureaucratic politics, and Congressional advocacy. The Transitional Limitations Model is introduced to explain the role of transitional limitations and multiple intervening variables in causing American foreign policy miscalculations during the presidential transition period.


International Affairs

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