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Article

Small Group Effects on Foreign Policy Decision Making  

Jean A. Garrison

The core decision-making literature argues that leaders and their advisors operate within a political and social context that determines when and how they matter to foreign policy decision making. Small groups and powerful leaders become important when they have an active interest in and involvement with the issue under discussion; when the problem is perceived to be a crisis and important to the future of the regime; in novel situations requiring more than simple application of existing standard operating procedures; and when high-level diplomacy is involved. Irving Janis’s groupthink and Graham Allison’s bureaucratic politics serve as the starting point in the study of small groups and foreign policy decision making. There are three distinct structural arrangements of decision groups: formalistic/hierarchical, competitive, and collegial advisory structures, which vary based on their centralization and how open they are to the input of various members of the decision group. Considering the leader, group members, and influence patterns, it is possible to see that decision making within a group rests on the symbiotic relationship between the leader and members of the group or among group members themselves. Indeed, the interaction among group members creates particular patterns of behavior that affect how the group functions and how the policy process will evolve and likely influence policy outcomes. Ultimately, small group decision making must overcome the consistent challenge to differentiate its role in foreign policy analysis from other decision units and expand further beyond the American context.

Article

Institutional Actors in Foreign Policy Analysis  

Ralph G. Carter and James M. Scott

Institutions have long been an important focus of foreign policy analysis. This is due to the fact that foreign policy is made and implemented by individuals acting within structured institutions of the state, and their foreign policy behavior is affected by the nature of those institutional structures and the roles they generate. At the heart of any institutional approach is the intersection of agency and structure. Institutions tend to influence actors more than actors influence them, and their impact is independent of the regime type or the decision making actors. Decision makers both react to and impact the external setting of decision making and the setting internal to the state in which decision making occurs. That internal setting includes social structures and the roles they generate for decision making actors to play. There are three types of decision units: structures featuring a predominant leader, a small group, or a coalition of multiple autonomous groups. The leader most commonly associated with foreign policy making is the head of the government. Other institutional roles include the head of state and military leaders. However, even when a predominant leader exists, most foreign policy decisions are shaped by small groups. There are five types of small groups: leader–staff groups, leader–autonomous groups, leader–delegate groups, autonomous groups, and delegate groups. Decision units marked by multiple autonomous units include other executive and non-executive branch actors as well. These actors include ministries, legislatures, and courts and councils.

Article

International Relations, Big Data, and Artificial Intelligence  

Ehud Udi Eiran

Scholars and practitioners of international relations (IR) are paying special attention to three significant ways in which artificial intelligence (AI) and big data (BD) are transforming IR, against a background of earlier debates among IR scholars about the effect of technology on the field. First, AI and BD have emerged as arenas of interstate, mostly great power competition. In this context, scholars suggest, AI and BD are important because an effective use of AI and BD adds significantly to military and economic power. The current competition in these fields, between the United States and the People’s Republic of China, brought scholars to highlight at least four ways in which AI and BD are important: (a) Automating decisions about the use of nuclear force could affect nuclear stability, but scholars still cannot agree in what direction; (b) The central role played by the private sector. This, as opposed to the Cold War era, when the state played the leading role in the development of technology ; (c) the gap between the current two great powers in these technologies is narrow, in contrast to the significant gap in favor of the United States during the Cold War; and (d) the wave of new technologies, including AI, makes weapons systems cheaper and more available for smaller powers and political entities, thus offering a possible curb on the dominance of great powers. Second, AI and BD are expected to affect national decision-making in the areas of foreign and security policies. Here, scholars highlight three possible transformations: (a) AI will allow states a path for better decision-making on security and foreign policy matters, through the optimization and speeding of existing policy processes; (b) the technology will omit some of the human shortcomings in decision-making, further optimizing the policy process; and (c) AI will be able to offer predictions about policies of other actors in the international system and create effective simulations to help manage crises. Finally, the inclusion of AI and BD in weapons systems, most notably the development of lethal autonomous weapons systems, brings the promise (or horror) of greater efficiency and lethality but also raises significant ethical questions. AI and BD are also affecting other arenas of interstate conflict including the cyber domain and information warfare.

Article

Political Psychology, Cognition, and Foreign Policy Analysis  

Jerel Rosati and Colleen E. Miller

Cognitive psychology highlights the constraints that prevent individuals from acting as utility-maximizing, fully rational decision-makers. These constraints lead people to rely on a regularly occurring set of cognitive mechanisms to simplify the decision-making process. Scholars of foreign policy have drawn from several prominent areas of cognitive psychology to inform their research. One such area looks at the beliefs and belief systems that are the building blocks for most judgments. Researchers have also examined how actors use cognitive biases and heuristics to cope with uncertainty, which is abundant in foreign policy settings. An important set of cognitive mechanisms examined in foreign policy analysis (FPA) relates to judgments about policy risks and costs. In order to make inferences and predictions about behavior concerning voting decision, certain key public influences must be considered. These influences include the role of emotions, political socialization, political sophistication, tolerance of diversity of political views, and the media. The effect of these influences on voting behavior is best understood through theories on the formation of attitudes, beliefs, schema, knowledge structures, and the practice of information processing. The degree to which voting decision is affected by internal processing systems of political information alters the quality of making truly democratic decisions.

Article

Operational Codes in Foreign Policy: A Deconstruction  

Michael Haas

Codes of conduct exist in many areas of life, including cultural, ethical, legal, medical, and scientific. Those pertaining to politics and especially the conduct of foreign policy are crucial for understanding how decision-makers can be effective in dealing with problems involving opposite numbers who subscribe to different codes. Accordingly, the concept of “operational code” has been developed in the study of international politics to refer to a set of lenses that filter how decision-makers perceive, process, and react to situations involving other countries. Although some operational code researchers enlighten puzzles in past history and construct theories, others hope to use the research to advise policy-makers on how to avoid blunders in future decision-making. The present historiographic essay begins by tracing the foundations of operational code research in the late 1940s. Because some foreign policy leaders appear to adhere more strictly to an operational code than others, a major puzzle is how to determine the essential components of an operational code. Various efforts are contrasted, with a standardization of definitional parameters two decades later. Efforts to develop operational code methodology have developed over time with successes in quantification that are best validated by qualitative analysis. The codes of decision-makers are micro-codes compared to the partisan ideologies (meso-codes) that bring them to office and the political cultures (macro-codes) in which they operate in various countries around the world. What began as a cognitive psychological exercise became transformed into a form of social psychological analysis of decision-makers. A current view is that the upbringing of leaders shapes their goal seeking, whereas occupying the role as leader of a country in the context of world politics also shapes their operational codes. As a result, operational code research has become involved in the continuing quest to determine which major paradigm of social science best provides a coherent explanation for how leaders guide their decision-making.

Article

Global Democracy  

Raffaele Marchetti

Global democracy is a field of academic study and political activism concerned with making the global political system more democratic. This topic has become a central area of inquiry for established literatures including political philosophy, international relations (IR), international law, and sociology. Along with global justice, global democracy has also been critical to the emergence of international political theory as a discrete literature in recent decades. Global democracy is particularly concerned with how transnational decision-making can be justified and who should be entitled to participate in the formation of global rules, laws, and regulations. As democratic nations increase trade among themselves, policies like isolationism and nationalism make far less sense. Borders blur through free trade agreements and the creation of economic zones. As nations begin to take the interests of their partner nations into consideration when drafting laws and regulations, global democracy begins to take shape. However, due to globalization, the supposed alliance between democracy and the nation-state has come unstuck. The expansion of global connections has functioned in close cooperation with increased efforts to govern global affairs. Many scholars argue that increased transnational activity undermines national democracy. On the contrary, global democrats share the view that individuals should collectively rule themselves—to the extent that decision-making power migrates beyond the state, democracy should follow.

Article

Leadership and Foreign Policy Analysis  

Thomas Preston

The classical literature on leadership—or at least the portion of it relevant to questions of foreign policy analysis—greatly evolved and changed over time from its beginnings in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. As new theoretical approaches and methodologies appeared, scholars eventually began to study the contextual nuances in this relationship between leaders and foreign policy. Yet, in its earliest incarnation, the literature was dominated by the “great man” theory of leadership, which suggested that leaders were “born, not made”—that people who became leaders were uniquely special and had personal qualities and characteristics setting them apart from non-leaders. Eventually, this fell out of favor with the rise of more situationally based theories and critiques pointing out the need to include both the person and the situation in order to explain leadership. Another strong tradition in the leadership literature historically has been the application of psychology and psychoanalytic theory to explain leadership styles and foreign policy actions. These approaches often employed in-depth psychobiographies of leaders to link their personalities, childhood socializations, or other experiences to subsequent patterns of behavior in life, styles of leadership, and foreign policy successes or failures. Yet another approach to the study of leadership follows a very different path towards understanding the concept and focuses instead upon not only the leader, but the follower as well.

Article

Culture and Foreign Policy Analysis  

Andrea Grove

There are several conceptions of culture which have become dominant in foreign policy analysis (FPA) in particular: culture as the organization of meaning, culture as value preferences, and culture as templates for human strategy. Prior to the 1990s, the Cold War constraints of bipolarity had left little room for idiosyncratic domestic-level variables such as culture to affect FP. However, once systemic constraints lessened and the decision making milieu became more ambiguous, scholars increasingly turned to questions about culture and identity. Using classic frameworks as a jumping off point, early work on national role conception and operational code analysis incorporated culture as a significant filter for decision making. Operational code analysis is another early approach that had elements of culture as part of the decision making context. In addition, there are a few works that investigate culture and FP with a different focus than FPA. But perhaps one of the most notable elements of FPA studies exploring culture is the idea that it need not be viewed as explaining whatever cannot be explained by anything else. Instead of merely an alternative theoretical explanation of state behavior, use of culture in the post-Cold War revival and today reflects an effort not so much to refute neorealism but to look at different questions.

Article

Poliheuristic Theory and Foreign Policy Analysis  

Steven B. Redd, David Brulé, and Alex Mintz

Milton Friedman and Herbert Simon introduced two opposing “schools” of thought in decision-making: the “rational actor” approach and the “cognitive approach,” respectively. Friedman argued that theories should be judged based on the validity of their predictions (“outcome validity”), whereas Simon countered that more emphasis must be placed on “process validity.” Seeking to bridge the gap between the cognitive and rational approaches, in the early 1990s Alex Mintz and colleagues developed poliheuristic theory. The theory is based on five main processing characteristics of decision-making: nonholistic search, dimension-based processing, noncompensatory decision rules, satisficing behavior, and order-sensitive search. A key premise of poliheuristic theory is its reference to the political aspects of decision making in a foreign policy context. Poliheuristic theory is related to Applied Decision Analysis (ADA), an analytic procedure which can be applied to all levels of analysis in foreign policy decision-making: the leader, the group and the coalition. As a bridge between rational and cognitive decision models, poliheuristic theory is uniquely positioned to contribute to progress in the study of world politics. Indeed, despite being relatively new to the discipline of foreign policy analysis, it has enriched our understanding of both the process of decision-making and the outcome of decisions, for example, or the diversionary use of force, international bargaining and negotiation, coalition formation, and terrorists’ decisions. A number of avenues deserve attention in future research on poliheuristic theory, in particularl the use of a more decision-theoretic dataset for investigating its basic proposition as well as more large-N methodological studies.

Article

Domestic Politics and Foreign Policy Analysis: Public Opinion, Elections, Interest Groups, and the Media  

Douglas C. Foyle and Douglas Van Belle

Societal factors such as public opinion, interest groups, and the media can influence foreign policy choices and behavior. To date, the public opinion and foreign policy literature has focused largely on data derived from the US, although this trend has begun to change in recent years. However, while much of the scholarly work suggests that public attitudes on foreign policy are both reasonable and structured, significant controversies exist over the public’s general influence on policy as well as the influence of elections on foreign policy. Meanwhile, the study of interest groups as a domestic source of foreign policy is dominated by two points of emphasis: ethnic groups acting as interest groups and the US case. These are most often considered together. This ethnic interest group literature stands largely apart from the literature on trade interest groups, which takes its inspiration from the economics literature. Finally, two aspects of media are specifically relevant to media and domestic sources of foreign policy. The first is the way the media serve as an arena of domestic political competition within democracies, and the second is the communicative role that media play in the formation of public opinions that are specific to and critical to foreign policy decision making.

Article

Caribbean Foreign Policy  

Jacqueline Anne Braveboy-Wagner

Despite the near-absence of studies of the Caribbean within the mainstream of international relations (IR) theory and foreign policy analysis (FPA), as well as a tendency to subsume this diverse and unique region within the larger Latin America, a focus on Caribbean international relations offers several interesting implications for the wider fields of both IR and FPA. Realist, liberalist, constructivist, and critical approaches all can be incorporated into the study of Caribbean foreign policy in unique ways, and the subfield of foreign policy analysis can also be enriched by focusing on the particular domestic sources of foreign policy in small, culturally diverse, developing countries such as the Caribbean states. Among the unique characteristics of foreign policy in these states is the important role played by external forces in both the economy and the polity, leading to constraints on decision-making autonomy. The external factor also explains why the idea of “inter-American relations” has long been viewed as providing the necessary backdrop for explaining Caribbean foreign policy. Related to this is the important role played by the main regional actors, the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), as well as the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), which has thinned the boundary between state and region. As for the prioritization of military-security issues seen in the more powerful countries of the globe, these Caribbean states (apart from Cuba) have eschewed military adventures and traditionally defined their foreign policies in terms of the prioritization of economic development. Finally, to study Caribbean foreign policy means that the scholar must exercise creativity in borrowing from perspectives not normally included in traditional foreign policy studies. Sociology, anthropology, historiography, political economy, and public policy are complementary tools for understanding the Caribbean. Moreover, situating the study of foreign policy within general currents of thought on the role of small states and global south states is also recommended.

Article

Foreign Policy Decision Making  

James M. Goldgeier

Decision makers, acting singly or in groups, influence the field of international relations by shaping the interactions among nations. It is therefore important to understand how those decision makers are likely to behave. Some scholars have developed elegant formal theories of decision making to demonstrate the utility of rational choice approaches in the study of international relations, while others have chosen to explain the patterns of bias that exist when leaders face the difficult task of making decisions and formulating policy. Among them are Herbert Simon, who introduced “bounded rationality” to allow leaders to short-circuit the decision process, and Elizabeth Kier, who has shown how organizational cultures shaped the development of military doctrine during the interwar period. The literature on foreign policy decision making during the Cold War looked inside the black box to generate analyses of bureaucratic politics and individual mindsets. Because decision making involves consensus seeking among groups, leaders will often avoid making choices so that they will not antagonize key members of the bureaucracy. Scholars have also investigated the role of “policy entrepreneurs” in the decision-making process, bringing individual agents into organizational, diplomatic and political processes. Over time, the field of policy decision making has evolved to help us understand not only why leaders often calculate so poorly but even more importantly, why systematic patterns of behavior are more or less likely under certain conditions.

Article

Foreign Policy Decision Making: Evolution, Models, and Methods  

David Brulé and Alex Mintz

Choices made by individuals, small groups, or coalitions representing nation-states result in policies or strategies with international outcomes. Foreign policy decision-making, an approach to international relations, is aimed at studying such decisions. The rational choice model is widely considered to be the paradigmatic approach to the study of international relations and foreign policy. The evolution of the decision-making approach to foreign policy analysis has been punctuated by challenges to rational choice from cognitive psychology and organizational theory. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, scholars began to ponder the deterrence puzzle as they sought to find solutions to the problem of credibility. During this period, cross-disciplinary research on organizational behavior began to specify a model of decision making that contrasted with the rational model. Among these models were the bounded rationality/cybernetic model, organizational politics model, bureaucratic politics model, prospect theory, and poliheuristic theory. Despite these and other advances, the gulf between the rational choice approaches and cognitive psychological approaches appears to have stymied progress in the field of foreign policy decision-making. Scholars working within the cognitivist school should develop theories of decision making that incorporate many of the cognitive conceptual inputs in a logical and coherent framework. They should also pursue a multi-method approach to theory testing using experimental, statistical, and case study methods.

Article

Prospect Theory and Foreign Policy Analysis  

Jeffrey W. Taliaferro

Prospect theory is one of the most influential behavioral theories in the international relations (IR) field, particularly among scholars of security studies, political psychology, and foreign policy analysis. Developed by Israeli psychologists Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky, prospect theory provides key insights into decision making under conditions of risk and uncertainty. For example, most individuals are risk averse to secure gains, but risk acceptant to avoid losses (loss aversion). In addition, most people value items they already posses more than they value items they want to acquire (endowment effect), and tend to be risk averse if they perceive themselves to be facing gains relative to their reference point (risk propensity). Prospect theory has generated an enormous volume of scholarship in IR, which can be divided into two “generations”. The first generation (1990–1999) sought to establish prospect theory’s plausibility in the “real world” by testing hypotheses derived from it against subjective expected-utility theory or rational choice models of foreign policy decision making. The second generation (2000–present) began to incorporate concepts associated with prospect theory and related experimental literature on group risk taking into existing mid-level theories of IR and foreign policy behavior. Two substantive areas covered by scholars during this period are coercive diplomacy and great power intervention in the periphery as they relate to loss aversion. Both generations of prospect theory literature suffer from conceptual and methodological difficulties, mainly around the issues of reference point selection, framing, and preference reversal outside laboratory settings.

Article

Operational Code Theory: Beliefs and Foreign Policy Decisions  

Stephen G. Walker and Mark Schafer

The process of foreign policy decision making is influenced in large part by beliefs, along with the strategic interaction between actors engendered by their decisions and the resulting political outcomes. In this context, beliefs encompass three kinds of effects: the mirroring effects associated with the decision making situation, the steering effects that arise from this situation, and the learning effects of feedback. These effects are modeled using operational code analysis, although “operational code theory” more accurately describes an alliance of attribution and schema theories from psychology and game theory from economics applied to the domain of politics. This “theory complex” specifies belief-based solutions to the puzzles posed by diagnostic, decision making, and learning processes in world politics. The major social and intellectual dimensions of operational code theory can be traced to Nathan Leites’s seminal research on the Bolshevik operational code, The Operational Code of the Politburo. In the last half of the twentieth century, applications of operational code analysis have emphasized different cognitive, emotional, and motivational mechanisms as intellectual dimensions in explaining foreign policy decisions. The literature on operational code theory may be divided into four general waves of research: idiographic-interpretive studies, nomothetic-typological studies, quantitative-statistical studies, and formal modeling studies. The present trajectory of studies on operational code points to a number of important trends that straddle political psychology and game theory. For example, the psychological processes of mirroring, steering, and learning associated with operational code analysis have the potential to enrich our understanding of game-theoretic models of strategic interaction.