Graduation Year

Spring 2013

Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


International Relations

Reader 1

Jennifer Taw

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Terms of Use for work posted in Scholarship@Claremont.

Rights Information

© 2013 Sara M. Birkenthal


This paper seeks to determine under what conditions a U.S. president can implement a grand strategy given the nature of domestic and international opportunities and constraints. It will examine three comparative case studies: Jimmy Carter, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama, with the goal of determining what conditions are necessary at the individual, domestic, and systemic levels of analysis for grand strategy implementation. At the individual level, it will apply operational code analysis, as well as an examination of personal characteristics for each case study. At the domestic level, it will apply a five-prong test for examining factors that are key to grand strategy implementation: (1) unity of foreign policy team; (2) strength of presidency; (3) party alignment between Congress and the president; (4) public opinion; and (5) strength of domestic economy. At the systemic level, it will examine significant events faced by each president that tested whether his grand strategy could respond effectively to international imperatives. Ultimately, it will assess the success of each president's attempt at grand strategy implementation based on: (1) how closely U.S. policies aligned with his grand strategy; and (2) whether policies put in place that aligned with his grand strategy improved the global standing of the U.S. Through this analysis, it will assess the larger implications of having a grand strategy on U.S. foreign policy.