The scholarly literature on Middle Eastern foreign policies has long treated the region as a pawn in the larger game of the great powers’ international rivalry for global supremacy. During the Cold War, Middle Eastern foreign policies were seen in terms of East-West confrontation, or as a replica of Western foreign policies. Over time, more sophisticated theories of Middle Eastern foreign policy have emerged. Two of the earliest theories that were applied to the study of Middle Eastern foreign policies were diplomatic political history and psychological approaches. Some scholars argue that the behavior of Middle Eastern states is reflective of some of the basic premises of the realist theory. Others, adopting a neorealist structural approach, contend that while Middle Eastern states may use the language of Islam and Pan-Arabism, power politics still lies at the core of their foreign policy. These scholars consider the shift in the regional and the global balance of power as the major explanatory factors for understanding foreign policy changes in the Middle East. Then there are those who conceptualize Middle Eastern foreign policies primarily in terms of dependency theory, the core-periphery power relations, and a struggle for the control of the region's oil and energy. Two other approaches to the study of Middle Eastern foreign policies are international political economy and bureaucratic politics. The Palestinian–Israeli conflict has been a major polarizing issue responsible for radicalization of regional politics and foreign policies in the Middle East.
Next to national defense, energy security has become a primary issue for the survival and wellbeing of both developed and developing nations. A review of the literature shows how concerns for energy security acquired a new dimension after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, when the Western powers and a weakened Russia competed for the control of the Eurasia region and its energy resources. Research has also focused on how different countries have developed a variety of strategies for securing their energy supply. Energy security literature can be split into three general sections: neoclassical economics and public choice, bureaucratic politics and public administration, and political economy. Scholars have also explored regime theory, resource conflict, and the relationship between national energy security and foreign policy. In the case of the United States, four major challenges in foreign policy issues related to energy security can be identified: “building alliances, strengthening collective energy security, asserting its interests with energy suppliers, and addressing the rise of state control in energy.” These challenges require eight specific foreign policy responses from the U.S. government, two of which constitute the core relationship between energy security and foreign policy making: “candor and respect” for the producer countries, and foreign policies that promote the stability and security of suppliers.
Bruce Bueno de Mesquita
Since the end of World War II, foreign policy thinking has been dominated by a realist (or neorealist) perspective in which states are taken as the relevant unit of analysis. The focus on states as the central actors in international politics leads to the view that what happens within states is of little consequence for understanding what happens between states. However, state-centric, unitary rational actor theories fail to explain perhaps the most significant empirical discovery in international relations over the past several decades. That is the widely accepted observation that democracies tend not to fight wars with one another even though they are not especially reluctant to fight with autocratic regimes. By looking within states at their domestic politics and institutionally induced behavior, the political economy perspective provides explanations of the democratic peace and associated empirical regularities while offering a cautionary tale for those who leap too easily to the inference that since pairs of democracies tend to interact peacefully; therefore it follows that they have strong normative incentives to promote democratic reform around the world. Rational choices approaches have also helped elucidate new insights that contribute to our understanding of foreign policy. Some of these new insights and the tools of analysis from which they are derived have significantly contributed to the actual decision making process.
Steven W. Hook and Franklin Barr Lebo
International development has remained a key part of global economic relations since the field emerged more than half a century ago. From its initial focus on colonization and state building, the field has evolved to encompass a wide range of issues, theoretical problems, and disciplinary traditions. The year 1945 is widely considered as a turning point in the study of international development. Three factors account for this: the end of World War II that left the US an economic hegemon, the ideological rivalry that defined the Cold War, and the period of decolonization that peaked around 1960 that forced development issues, including foreign aid, state building, and multilateral engagement, onto the global agenda. Since then, development paradigms have continuously evolved, adapted, and been reinvented to address the persistent and arguably widening gap between the prosperous economies of the “developed North” and the developing and frequently troubled economies of the “global South.” Today, a loosely knit holistic paradigm has emerged that recognizes the deficiencies of its predecessors, yet builds on their strengths. A holistic conception of international development embraces methodological pluralism in the scholarly study of development, while recognizing the multiple ways policy practitioners may productively apply academic theories and research findings in unique settings.
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.