How is foreign policy made
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Rational Model Actions are chosen by the national government to maximize attainment of state’s objectives.

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  • Rational Model

  • Actions are chosen by the national government to maximize attainment of state’s objectives.

  • Assumptions: State is a unitary, rational actor; has a clear set of goals; determines policy alternatives; weighs those rationally in terms of cost and benefit; selects the action that produces the best outcome at the least cost.

  • Often most clearly evident in crisis decision-making at this highest levels with few actors taking part.

  • Fits with a realist conception of international relations, just one national interest, state can act to achieve.

How is Foreign Policy Made?


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  • Bureaucratic/Organizational Model

  • A lot of decisions may not be made at the highest level by “the decider.”

  • May be made by departments or ministries down the line.

  • Bureaucratic model stresses sub-group bargaining, “where you stand is where you sit.” But also difficulties of coordinating across agencies (9/11).

  • Organizational model stresses standard operating procedures (SOPs Cuban missile crisis), organizational cultures (worldviews, educations, and interests of bureaucrats in determining priorities), “satisficing” (adequate rather than optimal).

  • Often most clear in non-crisis decision-making when time is relatively elastic.

  • Fits well with a liberal perspective of international relations where nation is a field not a solitary unit.

How is Foreign Policy Made?


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  • Pluralist Model

  • Policies are outputs of domestic bargaining among many constituencies (public, interest groups, mass movements, MNCs)

  • Different from bureaucratic model: not just Agriculture v. Trade.

  • How do groups affect: public education/ads, media events, lobbying (leg/exec), protests, organize across national boundaries.

  • More in keeping with a liberal vision, but realists wouldn’t deny that these processes occur.

How is Foreign Policy Made?


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  • Psychological/Psychoanalytic Model

  • Focuses on individual actors’ formative experiences, predilections.

  • Mao became a revolutionary because he hated his father . . .

  • Roosevelt included China in the P-5 because he fancied he and his family had a special relationship with the country . . .

  • Bush invaded Iraq because Saddam Hussein tried to kill his Daddy.

  • Bush moralism, Christianity “Axis of evil.”

How is Foreign Policy Made?


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  • Some combination of the models:

  • Start with a rational model. What are my country’s goals? How can I achieve them?

  • Be embedded in a realistic understanding of your government, your position in the government, and your country’s politics.

How do you decide what positions your country should take?


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  • In addition to the rational model, you should take into account:

    • bureaucratic rivalries (who gets a say in your policy area?),

    • constitutional divisions of power over foreign policy (matters more in some countries than others),

    • Nature of your political system (democratic, authoritarian, presidential, parliamentary—majority or coalition?)

    • policy precedent (matters more in some countries than others),

    • politicians’ interests,

    • interest groups (more in some than others)

    • public opinion in general (more in some than others),

    • culture/worldview of decision-makers and their stake in the issue.

How do you decide what positions your country should take?


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  • Styles, cultures, individuals can matter a great deal, varies by system.

  • If want to understand Zimbabwe, have to understand predilections of Mugabe.

  • Countries have styles too: US style: deprecation of old power politics, sense of democratic destiny, interaction of moralism/realism. Our style at odds with perception of our style!

  • Discuss other countries’ styles: China, UK, India, Germany

  • Also, politicians have styles and lenses. Bush: good v. evil. Iraq bad due to father’s earlier experience, must be involved in 9/11.

  • Diplomat’s education/style: present generation Cold War trained, focus on Russia, big powers, might miss new threats and opportunities.

On Styles, Cultures, and Worldviews