Resolving Conflicting Emotions: Obama's Quandaries on the Red Line and the Fight against ISIS

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Abstract

The study of emotions in foreign policymaking has emphasized dominant discrete emotions and how they each lead to specific action tendencies. Scholars often focus on one emotion to explain decisions and have an additive view of emotions. This article argues that decision-makers often feel conflicting emotions and that emotions are not simply additive. What are conflicting emotions’ consequences for foreign policymaking? How are these conflicts resolved? The cases of President Obama's response to the Syrian chemical weapon attack in 2013 and the rise of ISIS in 2014 provide an occasion to study these questions on major security issues surrounding military intervention. This article argues that when decision-makers feel conflicted emotions their anxiety level rises, and that they are likely to attempt to gain time through procrastination, to resolve their conflict by focusing their attention on new developments, and to seek support to bolster confidence in their decision.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberorac016
JournalForeign Policy Analysis
Volume18
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 28 Jul 2022

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