The National Security Council (NSC) is the most important formal institution in the U.S. government for the creation and implementation of foreign and defense policy. The Council's four principal members-the President, Vice President, Secretary of State, and Secretary of Defense-are responsible for incredibly far-reaching decisions regarding war and peace, diplomacy, international trade, and covert operations. Despite its obvious importance, the NSC has been subject to relatively little scholarly scrutiny, and therefore remains misunderstood by most international relations students. Fateful Decisions: Inside the National Security Council provides students with valuable insights into the origins, workings, strengths, and weaknesses of the NSC.
Covering the period from 1947 to 2003, Fateful Decisions features seminal articles, essays, and documents drawn from a variety of sources. The book presents and illuminates several obscure documents regarding the beginning of the NSC and its early years. It then examines the transformation of the NSC from a newly established, and initially ignored, advisory committee to the nation's premier forum for national security deliberations. The selections-written by prominent scholars, journalists, and practitioners-offer revealing coverage of major topics, such as key challenges to the NSC and the role of the NSC in a post-Cold War environment. The articles also discuss the rise of the National Security Adviser to a position of prominence and provide profiles of those who have held the position, including McGeorge Bundy, Henry Kissinger, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Brent Scowcroft, Samuel Berger, Colin Powell, and Condoleezza Rice. Chronicling the performance of the NSC over the years, Fateful Decisions dissects both its successes and its failures-from the Cuban Missile Crisis through the Iran-contra affair, to the current war against global terrorism-and offers reform proposals to improve the Council's performance. It is ideal for courses on the NSC, national security decision-making, and U.S. foreign policy.