In theory, policy, and strategy are the product of extensive analysis, detailed cost-benefit calculations, and rational criteria for decision-making. In practice, good strategy development is also about compromise and consensus building, resolving problems, mitigating uncertainty and constraints, and steering downstream through the fluid dynamics of international and domestic politics.
Historically, however, a presidential doctrine has served to define the national interest of a specific administration in a public manner, informing the American people and their allies, as well as putting potential adversaries on notice. Presidential doctrines did not define a specific strategy a president would pursue, their administration's worldview, or how they would utilize American power.
Lying beneath this humanity is the unrelenting belief that each day of tedium, each crippling struggle, progresses one toward that individual peak. It’s the foundation that built Bush into a steward that led the U.S. through shifting times, though he scarcely heaped much praise from it in the moment. Rather, he bore through it, finding solace in the records he took on paper and in dictation: his journals. The ones with which Meacham has used to fill the pages of Destiny and Power, and in doing so, craft a legacy in a time with even less certainty and even more fear than the one George H.W. Bush occupied.
Understanding presidential decisions for and against increased force in ongoing conflicts is a significant and important endeavor. The implications include the impact on future decisions to commit troops in the first place—such as in Syria. National security decision making also affects civil-military relations, as well as the balance between executive and congressional powers. Finally, as escalation and de-escalation involves either mission creep or the need to adjust policy aims by taking an appetite suppressant, understanding its dynamics will illuminate leader perceptions, the difference between wartime realities and prewar expectations, and the impact on the U.S. debt and the American public.