Powerful states have numerous resources that can be mobilized in mediation processes. However, evidence suggests that such states are not more likely to be successful than other mediators. This article examines U.S. mediations through the lens of foreign policy decision making and argues that leaders make foreign policy decisions primarily with their domestic consequences in mind. Further, it contends that presidential administrations seek to build a record of success in order to improve their domestic political fortunes based on the policy options available to them. The study tests two explanations of foreign policy substitution based on domestic conditions and institutional configurations, the “party cover” and “policy availability” arguments, for U.S. mediations from 1945–1999. Results for the party cover argument are more robust, suggesting that domestic conditions play an important role in the decision to engage in mediation and imply that successful mediation is secondary to domestic politics.
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