Cultivating Strategic Thinking in the National Security Council: A Critical Study of the Eisenhower and Kennedy Mechanism
This dissertation examines the Eisenhower and Kennedy National Security Council mechanisms to explore the impact of organization on the cultivation of strategic thinking for grand strategy formulation. There is a substantial amount of scholarship on the Presidency, the National Security Council, and the National Security Advisor, but no scholarship on the practice of strategic thinking for strategy formulation. This research builds on presidential scholarship by introducing the work of strategic theorists Colin Gray, Harry Yarger, and Ross Harrison to study the correlation between National Security Council organization and the discipline of strategic thinking.The work of this dissertation takes an historical and archival approach to studying two diverse organizational approaches to the National Security Council mechanism. President Eisenhower established formal organization for the integration of information, policy deliberation, and policy implementation. President Kennedy established informal organization for accelerated decision-making, innovative policy solutions, and decisive policy implementation. This dissertation studies the constituent parts of each National Security Council mechanism to assess which system fostered strategic thinking more efficiently. Further, this study examines the manner in which each President operated within the mechanism to practice persuasion, increase his influence, and extend his span of control for the successful implementation of policy.The argument made here is the importance of organization and staff work for strategic thinking to occur. In essence, strategic thinking is a disciplined approach to strategy formulation. It begins with the strategic appraisal, which helps the policymaker gain a greater understanding of the strategic environment. Continuing the appraisal process through the five competencies of strategic thinking, the policymaker can examine complex problems from different angles. This discipline results in the articulation of the strategic objective, the desired strategic effects, and the selection of a strategy and its supporting capabilities to achieve the end-state.The research takes an organizational and historical approach to each President's National Security Council mechanism and how each used the mechanism to practice strategic thinking. For the modern Presidency, Eisenhower and Kennedy's methodologies for incorporating strategic thinking in the formulation of grand strategy and crisis management serve as instructive paradigms.
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