Games Advisors Play: Foreign Policy in the Nixon and Carter Administrations

By Jean A. Garrison | Go to book overview
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Notes on the Case Study Approach

This books's case study analysis compares the impact of national security advisors in the Nixon and in the Carter administrations. In choosing and conducting the case studies, a number of concerns had to be addressed about the validity of the case study method. Because process-tracing case-study analyses describe and explain complex phenomena, from which various policy and theoretical "lessons" can be learned, such analyses are the appropriate method of inquiry here.1

Case study search can be systematized by developing an operational set of measures to explore relationships between or among variables. In this work, generalizing a particular set of results across different contexts required synthesizing diverse literatures to explain the advisory system as a group process in which a number of group members participated. The activities of foreignpolicy advisors was explained in terms of the influence process described. Defining each influence tactic was essential in order to systematize the exploration of relationships among members of the inner circle. Focusing on particular influence tactics and developing a tight conceptual framework allowed me to compare across different situations and cases, and to search for patterns in an advisor's relationship with the president.2

The theoretical framework lays out the "blueprint," or possibilities of influence by advisors, and addresses the relationship between the advisory process and policy outcomes. As Harry Eckstein notes, such case studies form part of a building-block approach to the development of theory. My purposes included discovering the important variables in the influence process, in order to generate questions for future research.3

Uniformity in data collection is an important challenge in studies such as this. One way to address this concern is to rely upon multiple sources of evidence (discussed in more detail below), with the goal of finding "convergence" around a specific interpretation of the facts.4 To begin to trace the policymaking process, I relied upon the memoirs of key officials; personal and exit interviews of key officials; and memoranda, personal correspondence, personal papers, minutes of meetings, position papers, and diaries from presidential


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Games Advisors Play: Foreign Policy in the Nixon and Carter Administrations


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