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Title page for ETD etd-04182006-124759

Type of Document Master's Thesis
Author O'Bryan, Diana Leigh
Author's Email Address diana.l.obryan@vanderbilt.edu
URN etd-04182006-124759
Title Transparent rationality: a theory of the evolution of war powers
Degree Master of Arts
Department Political Science
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Marc Joseph Hetherington Committee Chair
  • public opinion
  • imperial presidency
  • foreign policy
  • war powers
Date of Defense 2006-05-12
Availability unrestricted
Political Science



Thesis under the direction of Professor Marc Joseph Hetherington

This paper discusses the Imperial Presidency Theory and the role of the U.S. Congress in this theoretical evolution of executive power. That is, are the Legislative and Judicial branches and the citizenry victims or enablers of this theoretical empowerment of the Executive? I specifically consider this question as it relates to foreign policy. I utilize a case study methodology that is composed of historical cases that are often cited in this literature as examples of this evolution. These studies include early executive, legislative, and judicial administrations and conclude with a study of the current executive and legislative branches. I identify a common characteristic in the political environment that is present in these cases and examine the way in which this characteristic might influence the progression of executive powers. This paper is unique in that it utilizes Expected Utility foreign policy decision-making theory in concert with Democratic Peace Theory. I use these theories to explain a general pattern that seems to be characteristic of each case study. That is, in each of these cases there is a threat to national security. These theories offer an explanation of what might enable this characteristic of the political environment to alter foreign policy powers of the executive branch. In addition, this paper is unique in that it discusses the role of the governmental branches viewed as victims of the increasingly “imperialistic” foreign policy powers of the executive branch and provides a new perspective to this topic. Finally, I discuss possible implications of this perspective.


Professor James Lee Ray

Professor Marc Joseph Hetherington

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