How Domestic Constraints Limit Presidential Wartime Decisions

Hi everyone,

My name is Jack Wilson and I am a senior at the United States Naval Academy. I am from right outside Los Angeles, CA and am hoping to select surface warfare after graduation (be on a ship). My topic deals with presidential decision making during times of war. I am interested in what limits a president’s ability to wage a successful war and want to focus on domestic constraints. The three domestic factors I will look at are the public, Congress, and the media.

My original idea was going to consider several other influences on presidential decision making (personal advisers, military commanders, the international community, etc.) but as of late I’ve decided this is too ambitious. I have chosen to focus on domestic influences because I believe these to be exceptionally straining on a president’s flexibility to make wartime decisions. When a president is facing pressure from his constituency, members of Congress, and the press, it forces the commander in chief to either go along with these group’s desires or risk facing their opposition manifest itself and a number of ways. This essentially means that president’s may overlook a decision that makes more military sense and go with one that is more politically savvy.

The importance in a study like this lies in the idea that domestic concerns may shape the outcomes of wars in ways that military commanders cannot defend against. This gives a huge amount of potential power to groups such as the public, Congress, and the media. To make my paper practical, I will use the Vietnam War as a case study and analyze how the decision making abilities of Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon were affected by these three groups. Hopefully, by the end of my study, I will be able to make some conclusions about how presidents are influenced during wartime by their constraints back home.

Thanks for your time and see you all soon.

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