How Do Leaders Make Decisions?: Volume 28B

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Evidence from the East and West, Part B


Table of contents

(9 chapters)

Understanding how leaders make foreign policy and national security decisions is of paramount importance for both the policy community and academia. It is our assertion that decisions in these domains can be explained best by tracing the cognitive process leaders go through in formulating and arriving at their decisions, using the applied decision analysis (ADA) method.

Consequently, this chapter introduces readers to Applied Decision Analysis (also see Mintz, 2005; Mintz & DeRouen, 2010), which is utilized throughout the chapters comprising this volume. We describe the methodological and theoretical implications of the research findings presented in this edited volume. Specifically, the range of leaders analyzed in this volume using ADA (namely, Vladimir Putin, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Khaled Mashal, Mao Zedong, and Saddam Hussein) substantiates this method’s capacity to provide robust analysis of decisions made by leaders from diverse nations and cultures. We conclude this introduction by providing a brief summary of the chapters that are included in this volume.

This volume is the second of two volumes analyzing decision-making, policy, and strategy of 12 prominent political leaders from the East and West through the lens of ADA. The chapters comprising both volumes seek to uncover how political leaders make decisions: their decision calculus and the motives and factors affecting their crafting of foreign as well as national security policies. The concluding chapter outlines the empirical and analytic contributions of ADA and poliheuristic theory to analysis that should be undertaken in national security and foreign policy affairs. Specifically, the chapter underscores ADA’s policy relevance and ramifications vis-à-vis intelligence analysis, international security analysis, as well as cross-cultural decision-making studies of rivals and allies.


This chapter attempts to uncover the decision code of Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, based on 12 decisions he made concerning the Middle East during his third term as president, from 2012 until October 2015.

The study was carried out to understand Putin’s line of thought and decision-making, in light of Putin’s increasing importance throughout the last decade, globally and in the Middle East, in particular. After understanding the decision calculus of Putin, it might also be possible to predict his future decisions concerning the region.

Decision rules can be inferred by analyzing a set of decisions. Analysis of such decisions is made in this chapter using the Applied Decision Analysis (ADA) method that uncovers historic decisions, and aims to peer into the mind of the decision-maker.

The results show the main decision rule for each of Putin’s decisions. The work proves that when it comes to foreign issues, the decision code which leads Putin in his decisions is rational. The results also reveal Putin’s strong desire to promote Russia and himself, while using holistic, maximizing, and compensatory processing, as long as his political survival is not compromised.


The chapter uses the poliheuristic theory of decision to explain decision-making in Turkish foreign policy since the outbreak of the civil war in Syria in 2011 and until the end of 2012. Six decisions of Turkey’s leader, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan are analyzed. The results provide strong support for the poliheuristic theory of decision and the importance of political calculations in Erdoğan’s calculus of decision.


This chapter offers an analysis of the decision code of Khaled Mashal, the former leader of the Hamas organization. Using the Applied Decision Analysis (ADA) method, it examines five decisions made by Mashal in 2011–2017. The analysis suggests that Mashal tends to use mainly the poliheuristic decision rule in these decisions, and considers the political-organizational dimension of Hamas as non-compensatory. Thus, Mashal made these decisions by first eliminating any alternative which risked his organization’s political status, and only then he rationally chose the alternative with the greatest expected utility from the remaining ones.


This chapter analyzes Mao Zedong’s decision-making code in foreign policy decisions made during his years as China’s leader: 1949–1976. I examine six decisions in China’s foreign policy during Mao’s tenure: China’s involvement in the Korea war (1951), Annexation of Tibet (1951), attacking the Taiwanese islands (1954), China’s war with India (1962), its involvement in the Vietnamese war (1964), and 1969 incident with the Soviet Army. This, in order to shed more light on the decision-making of leaders from the Far East, and to try and understand insights pertaining to the current foreign policy of China.

The analysis was conducted using the Applied Decision Analysis (ADA) method, based on historical materials, testimonies, and reports. The analysis demonstrates that Mao followed the poliheuristic decision rule in these decisions. Chairman Mao was making his decisions while choosing the most rational, cost-effective decision among alternatives that did not place his political status at risk.


This chapter uses an analytic procedure to uncover how Saddam Hussein made his past decisions, and the decision rule(s) Saddam adopted in choosing his actions. In analyzing Saddam, a leader who was considered one of the most formidable enemies of the Western world, this study utilizes official recordings captured at the Iraq war, which provide a reliable source of information. This chapter adds to the literature on the use of applied decision analysis (ADA) in analyzing leaders’ decisions.

Specifically, an emphasis is placed on the importance of understanding the process that led Saddam Hussein to his key decisions, in order to create his decision profile. Decision profiles describe the decision rules and models that are used by decision-makers en route to choice and can help understand and predict decisions of world leaders. I use the ADA procedure to examine key foreign policy decisions made by Saddam Hussein. Finally, after thoroughly examining each of these decisions, I attempt to uncover what decision rule Saddam used, and elaborate on the implications and recommendations of my analysis.


This conclusion summarizes theoretical and empirical contributions of the Applied Decision Analysis (ADA) model to the academic discipline of decision-making in national security affairs, and outlines its policy implications. It demonstrates how the method makes it possible to offer a more informed diagnosis of the decision-making code of particular leaders and a prognosis of their prospective moves in peacetime, in crisis and in war in different ideological, cultural and structural settings. It demonstrates the method’s immediate relevance for the main endeavors of national security policy planning and execution – intelligence analysis, net-assessment and strategic planning.

Cover of How Do Leaders Make Decisions?
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Contributions to Conflict Management, Peace Economics and Development
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Emerald Publishing Limited
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