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Mimicking War: How Presidents coordinate the American State
'Mimicking war', that is declaring war on some undesirable phenomenon - such as crime, poverty, illegal drugs, illegal immigration, terrorism and so forth - is a recurring strategy employed by White House incumbents from the beginning of the twentieth century. This paper examines the strategy and argues that the appeal to presidents of such war like exhortations are threefold. First, they provide a means by which the political executive can overcome the great problem of American governance - separated powers. Mimicking war, that is declaring a particular problem 'public enemy number one' constitutes a means of inducing coordinated government expansion. Second, mimicking war is a means of signalling a singular priority to bureaucrats and key policy makers thereby effecting a reallocation of scarce public resources to the new priority. Last, the strategy enables a president to set a political agenda and to justify the expansion of national standards of government in a political culture inherently hostile to federal governmental activity.
No. 074/2008
Desmond King

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