Ballots, Bullets, and Bargains

American Foreign Policy and Presidential Elections

Michael H. Armacost

Columbia University Press

Ballots, Bullets, and Bargains

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Pub Date: September 2018

ISBN: 9780231169936

304 Pages

Format: Paperback

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Pub Date: August 2015

ISBN: 9780231169929

304 Pages

Format: Hardcover

List Price: $35.00£27.00

Pub Date: August 2015

ISBN: 9780231539135

304 Pages

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Ballots, Bullets, and Bargains

American Foreign Policy and Presidential Elections

Michael H. Armacost

Columbia University Press

Drawing on twenty-four years of experience in government, Michael H. Armacost explores how the contours of the U.S. presidential election system influence the content and conduct of American foreign policy. He examines how the nomination battle impels candidates to express deference to the foreign policy DNA of their party and may force an incumbent to make wholesale policy adjustments to fend off an intra-party challenge for the nomination. He describes the way reelection campaigns can prod a chief executive to fix long-neglected problems, kick intractable policy dilemmas down the road, settle for modest course corrections, or scapegoat others for policies gone awry.

Armacost begins his book with the quest for the presidential nomination and then moves through the general election campaign, the ten-week transition period between Election Day and Inauguration Day, and the early months of a new administration. He notes that campaigns rarely illuminate the tough foreign policy choices that the leader of the nation must make, and he offers rare insight into the challenge of aligning the roles of an outgoing incumbent (who performs official duties despite ebbing power) and the incoming successor (who has no official role but possesses a fresh political mandate). He pays particular attention to the pressure for new presidents to act boldly abroad in the early months of his tenure, even before a national security team is in place, decision-making procedures are set, or policy priorities are firmly established. He concludes with an appraisal of the virtues and liabilities of the system, including suggestions for modestly adjusting some of its features while preserving its distinct character.
Michael H. Armacost has created a detailed history of post–World War II American foreign policy, organized and interpreted in the phases of our presidential election process. His insights about the dynamic interplay between campaign politics and foreign policy do not reassure that the world's major power can produce leaders with the vision and experience to effectively manage America's international engagement. Yet despite political dysfunction, our presidents have shown skill in learning on the job and using our substantial national resources in the service of the security and international interests of the United States. Richard H. Solomon, former director of policy planning and assistant secretary of state, former president of the United States Institute of Peace, and senior fellow at the RAND Corporation
Drawing on careful study as well as his own rich experience as a diplomat, Michael H. Armacost offers unique and nuanced insights. This is a superb discussion of U.S. foreign policy in the context of presidential politics since the elections of 1948. With less than two years to go before our next presidential contest, this is an especially timely and thoughtful read. John Negroponte, former deputy secretary of state
[A] fascinating study. Publishers Weekly
Readers will find this a useful, accessible survey of the topic, enriched by Armacost's firsthand recollections from his diplomatic career. Library Journal
Don't miss this thought-provoking read that places American politics in a uniquely global context. Biographile
A readable, balanced, and detailed account. Choice
For readers looking for one book to explain the possible effects of the 2016 U.S. presidential election on America’s foreign policy, Ballots, Bullets, and Bargains is a fantastic starting point. It provides a great read for newcomers and aficionados of U.S. politics alike. International Affairs

About the Author

Michael H. Armacost is a Shorenstein APARC Fellow at Stanford University’s Walter H. Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center. He has held senior positions at the Department of Defense and on the National Security Council. He has also served as undersecretary of state for political affairs and as U.S. ambassador to the Philippines and Japan. He was president of the Brookings Institution from 1995 to 2002. He has received the President's Distinguished Service Award, the Defense Department's Distinguished Civilian Service Award, the Secretary of State's Distinguished Service Award, and the Japanese government's Grand Cordon of the Order of the Rising Sun. He is the author of Friends or Rivals? The Insider's Account of U.S.–Japan Relations and The Politics of Weapons Innovation: The Thor-Jupiter Controversy. He also coedited, with Daniel Okimoto, The Future of America's Alliances in Northeast Asia.