We cannot verify your location
Browse Book and Journal Content on Project MUSE

Honest Broker?

The National Security Advisor and Presidential Decision Making

By John P. Burke

Publication Year: 2009

“Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?” “Who will be guarding the guardians?”—Juvenal The U.S. president’s decisions on national security and foreign policy reverberate around the world. The National Security Council (NSC) and the national security advisor are central to the decision making process. But how was the role of the national security advisor originally understood, and how has that understanding changed over time? Above all, how has the changing role of the national security advisor affected executive decisions and the implementation of policy? Now, presidential scholar John P. Burke systematically and thoroughly addresses these questions. In Honest Broker?, he reviews the office of national security advisor from its inception during the Eisenhower presidency to its latest iteration in the White House of George W. Bush. He explores the ways in which the original conception of the national security advisor—as an “honest broker” who, rather than directly advocate for any certain policy direction, was instead charged with overseeing the fairness, completeness, and accuracy of the policymaking process—has evolved over time. In six case studies he then analyzes the implications of certain pivotal changes in the advisor’s role, providing thoughtful and sometimes critical reflections on how these changes square with the role of “honest broker.” Finally, Burke offers some prescriptive consideration of how the definition of the national security advisor’s role relates to effective presidential decision making and the crucial issues of American national security. Honest Broker? will be an important resource for scholars, students, political leaders, and general readers interested in the U.S. presidency, foreign policy, and national security

Published by: Texas A&M University Press

Series: Joseph V. Hughes Jr. and Holly O. Hughes Series on the Presidency and Leadership


pdf iconDownload PDF

Title Page

pdf iconDownload PDF


pdf iconDownload PDF


pdf iconDownload PDF

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF
pp. ix-x

I would especially like to thank former NSC advisors Brent Scowcroft and Anthony Lake for consenting to be interviewed on this project. Former NSC staff members and State Department officials Harold Saunders and Philip Zelikow also provided valuable input. As well, I would like to thank Fred I. Greenstein for reading an early draft of the manuscript and offering ...

read more

Introduction: The Case for the Honest Broker Role

pdf iconDownload PDF
pp. 1-14

Analysis of presidential decision making, particularly in the area of foreign and national security policy, is a critical area of research. It examines processes and dynamics that are truly consequential in their results. Its implications and findings bear great significance when put into practice. In studying decision making, much attention has focused on a range of...

read more

CHAPTER 1. The Foundation of Honest Brokerage: Truman’s Executive Secretaries, Eisenhower’s Special Assistants

pdf iconDownload PDF
pp. 15-55

The workings of the national security policy process during the Truman and Eisenhower administrations provide important insight into the origins and early operations of the National Security Council (NSC), the broader process of policy making, and the development of the NSC advisor’s role as an honest broker. The experience of the Eisenhower administration ...

read more

CHAPTER 2. The Decline of Honest Brokerage: Bundy as NSC Advisor

pdf iconDownload PDF
pp. 56-104

The appointment of McGeorge Bundy as John F. Kennedy’s NSC advisor marked an important watershed in the evolution of the role of the NSC advisor. Under his early direction much of the organizational apparatus of the Eisenhower-era national security system was dismantled. The role of honest broker as the center point of the NSC advisor’s responsibilities ...

read more

CHAPTER 3. The Costs of Absent Brokerage: Henry Kissinger as NSC Advisor

pdf iconDownload PDF
pp. 105-150

Examination of Henry Kissinger’s tenure as NSC advisor presents both a hard and an easy case for the notion that some conception of the honest broker role, albeit expanded, ought to be central to the NSC advisor’s position. The easy case is made by critics, such as Seymour Hersh and Christopher Hitchens among others, whose accounts portray him in a ...

read more

CHAPTER 4. The Benifits of Balanced Brokerage: Scowcroft as NSC Advisor

pdf iconDownload PDF
pp. 151-197

Analysis of Brent Scowcroft’s role as NSC advisor is particularly important in understanding how a modern, post-Eisenhower occupant of that role can meet some of the requirements of honest brokerage, yet at the same time take on—judiciously—other tasks such as serving as personal counselor to the president or acting as a diplomatic channel....

read more

CHAPTER 5. Weak Brokerage, Insurgency, and Recovery: The Reagan NSC Advisors

pdf iconDownload PDF
pp. 198-237

The six NSC advisors who served over the eight years of the Reagan presidency provide an interesting set of cases about how that role can be defined so differently, especially under one president. Some, such as Richard Allen, were largely coordinators. Others such as Frank Carlucci and Colin Powell were more honest brokers. Some, such as John Poindexter, ...

read more

CHAPTER 6. The Costs of Failed Brokerage: Rice as NSC Advisor

pdf iconDownload PDF
pp. 238-278

Analysis of the broker role in the George W. Bush presidency is important for a number of reasons. First, the rhetoric, if not at times the practice, of serving as an honest broker was, at least initially, embraced by Condoleezza Rice when she took over as NSC advisor. The broker role was also in George W. Bush’s mind when he picked Rice for the ...

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF
pp. 279-310

The role of the NSC advisor has evolved significantly since the Eisenhower years, a period of time when being a “neutral broker” occupied center space in how Robert Cutler and his two successors defined their jobs. Policy advocacy and increasing public visibility—and sometimes diplomatic efforts and political involvement—are components of the job for ...

APPENDIX A. Assistants to the President for National Security Affairs (NSC Advisors), since 1953

pdf iconDownload PDF
pp. 311-312

APPENDIX B. The Others: Rostow, Brzezinski, Lake, Berger, and Hadley

pdf iconDownload PDF
pp. 313-366


pdf iconDownload PDF
pp. 378-444


pdf iconDownload PDF
pp. 445-462


pdf iconDownload PDF
pp. 463-492

E-ISBN-13: 9781603443463
E-ISBN-10: 1603443460
Print-ISBN-13: 9781603440981
Print-ISBN-10: 1603440984

Page Count: 504
Illustrations: Bib. Index.
Publication Year: 2009

Series Title: Joseph V. Hughes Jr. and Holly O. Hughes Series on the Presidency and Leadership
Series Editor Byline: Pfiffner, James P. See more Books in this Series

OCLC Number: 715188323
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Honest Broker?

Research Areas


UPCC logo

Subject Headings

  • National security -- United States -- Decision making -- History -- 20th century.
  • United States. Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs -- Decision making -- History.
  • National Security Council (U.S.) -- Decision making -- History.
  • Presidents -- United States -- Decision making -- History -- 20th century.
  • You have access to this content
  • Free sample
  • Open Access
  • Restricted Access