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Terrorism and National Security Reform
How Commissions Can Drive Change During Crises

$24.99 (P)

  • Author: Jordan Tama, American University, Washington DC
  • Date Published: March 2011
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9780521173070

$ 24.99 (P)

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About the Authors
  • Terrorism and National Security Reform demonstrates that blue-ribbon commissions can be powerful vehicles for policy change, overturning the conventional wisdom that views them only as devices for passing the buck. Jordan Tama explains how the unique political credibility of commissions can enable them to forge bipartisan consensus on tough policy challenges. He also shows that commissions are most valuable during a crisis, when policymakers face pressure to make changes but frequently cannot agree on what to do. Using an original database, case studies, and more than 200 interviews of policymakers and commission participants, Tama reveals how commissions have shaped Barack Obama's plan for ending the Iraq War, spurred the largest government and intelligence overhauls since 1947, and driven many other elements of U.S. counterterrorism policy. In an era of unrelenting partisanship and extreme polarization, this book shows that commissions are increasingly valuable policymaking tools.

    • Explains how and in what circumstances commissions can catalyze government reforms
    • Case studies show how commissions triggered major intelligence and homeland security overhauls after 9/11
    • Analysis draws on over 200 interviews with government officials and commission participants
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    Reviews & endorsements

    “Quantitatively and qualitatively, Tama shows that many commissions have been effective. Moreover, he develops and verifies propositions that tell us the circumstances under which they are most likely to be effective. The magnitude of Tama’s research is impressive, and I believe that this will become the definitive work on the subject of national security commissions.”
    —I.M. Destler, University of Maryland

    “Kudos to Jordan Tama for this terrific study of the role of national security commissions, countering the conventional wisdom that they make some brief noise but are otherwise unimportant. Using statistical analysis, in-depth case studies, and interviews with all the relevant actors, Tama demonstrates the conditions under which these commissions make a difference. It will be of tremendous value to scholars and policymakers alike.”
    —James Goldgeier, George Washington University

    “International crises often give rise to commissions designed to assess and improve American foreign and defense policies. Jordan Tama’s exceptional study assesses the impact of the 51 Congressional and Executive commissions established between 1981 and 2006 on issues of national security and terrorism. To supplement an extensive data base, he draws upon more than two hundred interviews with important American policy-makers who also served on these commissions, including James Baker, George Shultz, James Woolsey, Harold Brown, Brent Scowcroft, and many others. This book will be required reading for anyone interested in the extent to which governments confirm the late economist Kenneth Boulding’s dictum that we learn more from failures than from successes.”
    —Ole Holsti, Duke University

    “In Terrorism and National Security Reform, Jordan Tama provides an engaging and illuminating account of the usefulness of government commissions. His findings highlight the importance of bipartisan commissions in shaping policy and may surprise those who question their worth. The book’s thorough research, careful analysis, and astute suggestions for future commissions will be of interest to anyone interested in how public policy is crafted.”
    —Lee Hamilton, Director of the Center on Congress at Indiana University, former Member of Congress (1965-1999), and Vice Chairman of the 9/11 Commission

    “‘Everyone knows that commissions are a waste of time and paper. But Jordan Tama brings together newly compiled records, extensive interviews, and creative empirical tests to show us that commissions have often made key contributions to national security policy. His finding that commissions can be tools to overcome polarization in times of crisis is one that today’s policymakers would do well to heed.”
    —Andrew Rudalevige, Dickinson College

    “If commissions are maligned, why would Congress and the President routinely turn to these outside groups for advice? In his new book, Terrorism and National Security Reform: How Commissions Can Drive Change During Crises, Jordan Tama answers this question while simultaneously de-stigmatizing and providing one of the few in-depth studies of advisory commissions…By adding in the context provided by the interviews, this book becomes essential reading for all scholars interested in commissions and on how to govern with advice from outside, yet governmentally chartered entities.” - Jacob R. Straus, The Johns Hopkins University, Congress & The Presidency

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    Product details

    • Date Published: March 2011
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9780521173070
    • length: 246 pages
    • dimensions: 228 x 152 x 13 mm
    • weight: 0.35kg
    • contains: 6 b/w illus. 10 tables
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. Introduction: commissioning reform
    Part I. Patterns of Commission Influence:
    2. A theory of commission influence
    3. The impact of national security commissions
    Part II. Commissions and Counterterrorism Policy:
    4. Responding to the first wave of anti-American terrorism
    5. Grappling with the rise of Al Qaeda
    6. Reforming homeland security and intelligence after 9/11
    Part III. Conclusion:
    7. Findings, implications, and the effort to end the Iraq War.

  • Author

    Jordan Tama, American University, Washington DC
    Jordan Tama is Assistant Professor at American University's School of International Service and Research Fellow at AU's Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies. His scholarship and commentary have been published in Foreign Policy,, The Hill, Asian Survey, the International Affairs Review and other journals. He has served as a member of the Intelligence and Counterterrorism Expert Advisory Groups for Barack Obama's 2008 presidential campaign, as a speechwriter for former U.S. representative Lee Hamilton and as a contributor to the Princeton Project on National Security. He is a Fellow of the Truman National Security Project and holds a Ph.D. from Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs.

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