Fateful Decisions: Inside the National Security Council

By Karl F. Inderfurth; Loch K. Johnson | Go to book overview
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Political science without biography is a form of taxidermy.

—Harold D. Lasswell
Psychopathology and Politics, 1945


Among the individuals who have served as national security adviser are seven attorneys and businessmen (Lay, Cutler, Anderson, Jackson, Gray, Clark, and Berger); five military men (Rear Adm. Souers, Lieut. Gen. Scowcroft, Lieut. Col. McFarlane, Vice Adm. Poindexter, and Lieut. Gen. Powell); six academicians (Dean Bundy, professors Kissinger, Lake, Rostow, and Brzezinski, and Provost Rice); two men with longstanding government backgrounds (Gray and Carlucci); and a foreign policy consultant-entrepreneur (Allen). Republican administrations have been inclined to select military men for the executive secretary/adviser position more often than Democratic administrations (four, compared to one for the Democrats—Souers), although in both parties most advisers have been from civilian backgrounds (seventeen, compared to five military men).

A Day Filled with Meetings

When the national security adviser plays an activist role (which depends upon the support and encouragement of an activist foreign policy president), the workday is full. The adviser arrives early in the West Wing of the White House, where his or her office is a short walk to the Oval Office (see Figure VI.A), just a few strides down a corridor lined with oil paintings and watercolors of early American leaders and landscapes. The adviser's weekday mornings often start in the Oval Office when he or she briefs the president on those world events of the last twenty-four hours that have, or threaten to have, an effect on U.S. national security interests. Sometimes the director of Central Intelligence (DCI) participates in the briefings as well; and, in response to the terrorist attacks in September 2001, the national security adviser, the DCI, and the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) often joined together as a team to brief the president. This allows each of these presidential aides to hear what all the others are telling the president, which presumably enhances sharing of information between the intelligence and the law enforcement communities (both important players in this age of global terrorism), as well as within the NSC system.

The NSC adviser is normally in attendance at both the CIA and FBI briefings and, under President George W. Bush, so is the vice president, the White House chief of staff, and (less routinely)


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Fateful Decisions: Inside the National Security Council
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