TWQ: Managing Foreign Policy and National Security Challenges in Presidential Transitions - Fall 2008
October 1, 2008
The process of transferring power from a sitting U.S. president to a president-elect is one of the most distinctive and perilous features of the American constitutional system—-a time of great hope and optimism, but also one of great risk. From the earliest days of the Cold War, how the old and new leaders have navigated this strait has literally been a matter of survival for the United States and for the stability and prosperity of the entire world.
The end of the Cold War has changed the nature of the dangers, but in many ways the two-and-a-half-month transition that will take place at the end of this year poses even greater challenges than in the past. These 72 days are fraught with suspense, tension, promise, and risk as a new team of foreign policy players confronts the arduous challenges of managing the interregnum.
The experience of transitions over the past 60 years is full of poignant examples of self-inflicted wounds and near misses, as well as of skillful takings of the reins. Although each transition is unique, the next president and his team need to understand the lessons of the past if he is to take advantage of the great opportunities for new U.S. leadership and avoid the landmines that lie ahead.