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The President and the Political Use of Force

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 August 2014

Charles W. Ostrom Jr.
Michigan State University
Brian L. Job
University of Minnesota


Throughout the post–World War II period the president has been called upon to make decisions concerning the use of force as a political instrument. The explanation that is offered is based upon a characterization of the president as a cybernetic human decision maker facing limitations. These limitations, in conjunction with the complexity of the environment, lead presidents to develop and use a relatively simple decision rule. The dependent variable, which is the probability of the use of force at any point in time, is explained in terms of enduring and essential concerns, which are operationalized as coming from the international, domestic, and personal environments. Data are taken from Blechman and Kaplan's Force Without War. On the basis of our estimation and evaluation, presidential decisions to use force are based on factors in all three arenas.

Copyright © American Political Science Association 1986

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