As this course continues to demonstrate, the personality of a decision maker/head of state impacts the nature of international relations. The personality of the decision maker is just as important to international relations than the relations that are taking place for example President Obama was recently able to broker an agreement between Iran and the international community that would limit the spread of nuclear weapons “the White House embarked on a campaign to sell a preliminary agreement that he hopes will transform security in the Middle East. Under the framework, negotiated with the United States and five other world powers, Iran agreed to scale back its nuclear program significantly for 10 to 15 years and accept intense international inspections. In exchange, the United States and the international community would lift sanctions that have punished the Iranian economy.” (Baker 2015) In this case President Obama and Iranian leader Hassan Rouhani (in power since 2013) both had personalities that allowed for negations to take place.
The interest in the personality of political leaders is an area of interest to more than students and professionals in international relations/political science, as Hermann indicates “There is a certain fascination with analyzing political leaders. As a result, biographies on current political figures become best sellers and the triumphs as well as the tragedies of political leaders become newspaper headlines.” (Hermann 2002) as I news and research junkie I can say that I love pouring through as much information as I can about political leaders, I feel that this information will offer me some insight into the thought process of the leader in question. For example I have recently become interested in Vladimir Putin; I am currently reading a book called The New Cold War. It is an interesting text, however simply skimming through the introduction it is obvious that the author is biased against President Putin. Hermann continues on “A major reason for our curiosity about the personal characteristics of such leaders is the realization that their preferences, the things they believe in and work for, and the ways they go about making decisions can influence our lives.” (Hermann 2002) One of the many reasons that I have chosen to study the personality of Russia and its president is due to the fact that I believe that Russia is attempting to leverage upheaval in Central Asia and parts of Eastern Europe in an attempt to regain some of the nation’s lost during the fall of the Soviet Union. If this is actually occurring there is a possibility that a new cold war may be in the works. If this is the case it will be important to have some understanding of the personalities of the political leaders in question.
It is important to have a clear understanding of the men (or women) that may be involved in decision making with regard to a potential new cold war due to the fact that “Personality and decision style—how the "man in the office" approaches the world and his daily tasks, how he weighs decisions, balances risks, relates to advisers, and prioritizes goals—are, under certain circumstances, key variables in accounting for policy outcomes.” (Dyson 2010). President Rouhani was open to the idea of making an agreement in regard to nuclear weapons developments knowing that this decision would be positive for his nation, where as President Putin appears to be pushing boundaries with the international community just to see how far he can push before the international community begins to push back.
In addition to political leaders, the decision makers of non-state actors or insurgent groups are beginning to impact international relations and as such, it is important to have the ability to discern what leaders of these groups may be considering. One method that is used to collect information regarding leaders of non-state actors of insurgent groups is by using HUMINT or human intelligence, “HUMINT provides an otherwise unattainable window into the personality, emotional makeup, and innermost secrets of those who are being targeted for influence operations. Recall the four aspects of our leadership framework: (1) personal characteristics, (2) operating environment, (3) advisory process, and (4) information environment. HUMINT is unmatched in its ability to uncover this often private, subtle, and privileged information about leaders and decision makers whom we want to influence.” (Norwitz 2008) HUMIT has the ability to offer an insight into the nature of leaders in a way other at a distance analysis cannot due to the fact that information will be coming from close up. In addition to this, biographical information can be used to offer even more of an insight into the nature of the leaders in question.
Having reviewed both VICS and trait based analysis, I must say that I believe that a trait biased analysis can be more useful because it is based on thoughts; beliefs and statements made by the decision maker in question (and in some cases using intelligence gathered from direct interactions with the decision maker). As I have stated previously the best indicator of future behavior is past behavior, so looking into the background of leaders and seeing where they have come from and what decision they have made in the past will offer more of an insight into the decisions that they will be making in the future. Also, trait analysis allows the inclusion of biographical information. Again, the only predictor of future behavior is past behavior. Looking into the background of family and education will offer insight into the decisions that leaders may make. While I do find myself more in agreement with trait based analysis I do understand that each analysis methods are limited in their ability to accurately identify the thought process of political leaders.
Baker, Peter. "President Obama Calls Preliminary Iran Nuclear Deal ‘Our Best Bet’." The New York Times. April 5, 2015. Accessed April 30, 2015. http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/06/world/middleeast/obama-strongly-defends-iran-nuclear-deal.html?_r=0.
Dyson, Stephen Benedict. 2010. "George W. Bush, the Surge, and Presidential Leadership." Political Science Quarterly (Academy Of Political Science) 125, no. 4: 557-585. International Security & Counter Terrorism Reference Center, EBSCOhost (accessed April 30, 2015)
Hermann, Margaret G. Assessing Leadership Style: A Trait Analysis. Social Science Automation, 2002.
Norwitz, Jeffrey H. "Disrupting and Influencing Leaders of Armed Groups." In Armed Groups: Studies in National Security, Counterterrorism, and Counterinsurgency, 323-341. Newport, R.I.: U.S. Naval War College, 2008.