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Article

Friendship and Foreign Policy  

Felix Berenskoetter and Yuri van Hoef

International friendship affects the making and conduct of foreign policy, an angle that is largely neglected in the International Relations (IR) literature. Friendship constitutes the Other as familiar rather than foreign and implies a significant degree of trust, and analysts need to pay careful attention to the various ways close bonds develop and “work” across state boundaries. They need to understand how seeking friends can be an explicit goal of foreign policy and how established friendships function by studying their discursive, emotional, and practical expressions and their impact on decision making in concrete situations and as a disposition for cooperation in the long term. Yet, tracing these bonds and associated practices, especially the informal ones, is an analytical challenge. This article presents international friendship as a particular relationship of mutually agreed role identities embedded in a strong cognitive, normative, and emotional bond revolving around a shared idea of order. It discusses three types of practices unique to this relationship: providing privileged/special access, solidarity and support in times of need, and resolve and negative Othering against third parties. These friendship bonds and associated practices can be observed across three levels: political leaders, government bureaucracies, and civil society.

Article

The Selectorate Theory and International Politics  

Randolph M. Siverson and Bruce Bueno de Mesquita

The Selectorate Theory is based upon one simple, perhaps even commonplace assumption: Once in office, leaders want to remain in office. They have a variety of tools to enhance their longevity in office, but the theory hypothesizes the leader’s allocation of two types of goods will be paramount in their efforts. One good is private, meaning that it is enjoyed by those to whom it is allocated and not to others. Such goods would include money, jobs, opportunities for corruption, but their hallmark is that they are not shared. These goods may be given to one individual or to a group, but they are not shared outside those to whom they are given. The second type of good is public and is shared by all those in the state. These goods would include potable water, clean air, education, and, importantly, national defense. There is little unique about the Selectorate Theory’s understanding of these goods, as they approximate ideas from economics. The importance and values of these two goods depend critically on the political institutions of the state. The Selectorate Theory identifies two political institutions of dominant importance: The Selectorate, from which it takes its name; and the Winning Coalition. The former consists of all those people who have a role in selecting the state’s leader. This group may be large, as in the electorate in democratic states, or small, as in the case of an extended family or a junta. In unusual circumstances it can even be a group outside the state, as when a foreign government either imposes or influences choices made inside the state. The winning coalition may be large, but not larger than the selectorate, or it may be as small as an extended family or a junta, groups that essentially constitute the selectorate. Variations in these two institutions can have important consequences for how the state conducts its foreign policy. For example, leaders in states with small winning coalitions should be able to take greater risks in their policies because if these fail, they will be able to mobilize and distribute private goods to reinforce their position. If these goods are not readily available, it is possible to purge non-critical supporters and redistribute their goods to others. These institutions are also important in identifying the kinds of issues over which states are more or less likely to enter into conflict. States with small winning coalitions are more likely to enter into disputes over things that can be redistributed to supporters, such as land or resources. Large winning coalitions will have little use for such goods, since the ratio of coalition size and goods to be distributed is likely to be exiguous. The Selectorate Theory also provides a firm analysis of the foundations for the idea of the Democratic Peace, which has been generally either lacking or imprecise. Despite its clarity, some interpretations of the Selectorate Theory have led to mistaken inferences about what it says. We discuss several of these and close with a consideration of the need for improvement in the measurement of key variables.

Article

Leaders and Foreign Policy: Surveying the Evidence  

Stephen Benedict Dyson and Thomas Briggs

Political Science accounts of international politics downplay the role of political leaders, and a survey of major journals reveals that fewer than 3% of all articles focus on leaders. This is in stark contrast to public discourse about politics, where leadership influence over events is regarded as a given. This article suggests that, at a minimum, leaders occupy a space in fully specified chains of causality as the aggregators of material and ideational forces, and the transmitters of those forces into authoritative political action. Further, on occasion a more important role is played by the leader: as a crucial causal variable aggregating material and ideational energies in an idiosyncratic fashion and thereby shaping decisions and outcomes. The majority of the article is devoted to surveying the comparatively small literature on political leaders within International Relations scholarship. The article concludes by inviting our colleagues to be receptive to the idiosyncrasies, as well as the regularities, of statespersonship.

Article

State Leaders and Foreign Policy  

Jeff Carter and Giacomo Chiozza

What choices do political leaders make in the international arena? And why? In what ways do the patterns of politics in the international arena shape the selection and prospects of leaders in power? These questions frame a thriving research agenda that has emerged over the last 20 years in political science and international relations. This agenda seeks to answer the fundamental questions of war and peace and cooperation and contestation from a perspective that focuses on leaders, leaders’ motivations, and leaders’ characteristics. Two major approaches frame the analysis of leaders and foreign policy: the survival approach and the personal attribute approach. These two approaches are not mutually exclusive, but they are analytically distinct. The survival approach starts from the premise that leaders seek to remain in power. It then assesses the reciprocal relation between leaders’ quest to remain in power and their foreign policy choices. Specifically, research in the survival approach analyzes how leaders’ choices can be explained in light of the assumption that leaders seek power and how, in turn, leaders’ survival in power can be explained by their choices in the international arena. With the survival approach, leaders have agency but, in the end, they are exchangeable: they all seek power. The personal attribute approach, on the other hand, points to the many features that distinguish the personal profiles of leaders and seeks to provide a systematic explanation of how those features account for leaders’ foreign policy choices. In particular, research in the personal attribute area has explained leaders’ choices in terms of their orientation toward the use of force, their psychological traits and beliefs about the world, and their personal characteristics and background experiences. The study of politics from the perspective of leaders integrates insights from the subfields of American politics, comparative politics, and international relations, and in so doing holds the promise to foster a productive and fruitful dialogue across the discipline of political science. Scholars who study politics from the perspective of leaders have generated a number of new theoretical developments, new typologies, new data collections, and new findings. Overall, the study of leaders and foreign policy has proved to be analytically fruitful, empirically rich, and politically relevant.

Article

Use of Force in Foreign Policy  

Stephen L. Quackenbush and Thomas R. Guarrieri

Foreign policy analysis has been used effectively to explain the use of force. Several leading approaches and paradigms help explain the use of force as a tool of foreign policy. These approaches are based on the important preliminary step of opening up the black box of state, which highlights the importance of decision making for explaining international politics. The two primary approaches to explaining foreign policy analysis are rational choice theory and psychological theories. Foreign policy analysis opens the door to a variety of novel and interesting topics. Many topics of domestic politics relate to international conflict, including democratic peace theory, selectorate theory, public opinion, domestic institutions, and leaders. Each of these topics is important for explaining the use of force in foreign policy. Future research on the use of force and international conflict should account for the importance of domestic politics. Studies of leaders, selectorate theory, and the bargaining model of war provide especially promising avenues for future research.

Article

The Availability Heuristic, Political Leaders, and Decision Making  

Michael Cohen

The cognitive and emotional mechanics of the human brain have profound effects on when and what people and political leaders learn, and this can have significant effects on their causal beliefs, preferences, and policies. The existence of the availability heuristic and its biasing effects on political judgment is one of the most robust findings from decades of research in cognitive psychology. The core mechanism involves people being more likely to learn from the phenomena that are most easily recalled by memory, which tend to be dramatic and vivid events, rather than other, often more normatively probative sources. Most applications of this insight to foreign policy decision-making also tend to assume that an actor’s personal experiences will impact what tends to be more or less easily recalled and thus better predict who learns which lesson from which event. This heuristic enables leaders to deal with the vast amount of extant information but also can cause systematic biases in causal inference. Documenting the availability heuristic and its effects on political decision-making requires (usually archival) data on leaders beliefs’ over long periods of time, from their formative political lessons through decisions and nondecisions when in power, in order to reliably clarify which lessons were in fact learned, when and why a leader learned which lesson from what data point, why that data point happened to be cognitively available, and whether these lessons influenced policy. Ideally, studies should also assess these leaders’ associates where possible to determine whether they learned similar lessons from the same events. Studies can also apply statistical analysis to larger populations of leaders who are likely to have found different events cognitively available. This article focusses on decisions in the realm of foreign policy and international security, although availability certainly plays a role in other domains as well. Decades of scholarship have now shown the relevance of the availability heuristic in U.S., Soviet, Indian, Chinese, and Pakistani grand strategy and foreign policy, approaches to nuclear weapons, and extant alliances and threat perceptions. But much work remains to be done in these cases and elsewhere, as well as in other fields like international political economy and comparative politics.

Article

Beliefs and Foreign Policy Decision Making  

Mark Schafer and Gary Smith

How do the beliefs of leaders affect foreign policy decision-making processes and outcomes? This question has been central to the study of foreign policy decision making (FPDM), yet it receives scant attention in the broader international relations literature. Although many controversies and debates surround the issue of specifically how political leaders’ beliefs affect foreign policy decisions and outcomes, there is one key assumption in this literature that is universally accepted: leaders matter. Individual leaders, their unique beliefs, and their distinctive cognitive limitations affect both the quality of the decision-making process and the direction of the foreign policy outcomes. The beliefs and images leaders hold act as powerful frames and limitations to incoming information. Despite the rich history of the field, scholars who study beliefs still have much more work to do to expand the generalizability of the qualitative findings in the literature. Scholars need more data, deriving from more sources, for more leaders, so that they can generate larger and more comprehensive datasets. Indeed, there is a great opportunity to expand this field of research and to paint a clearer picture of the decision-making process.

Article

Democratic Domestic Institutions and Foreign Policy  

Eric Hamilton

Scholarship on the relationship between domestic institutions and foreign policy is driven by the assumption that a state’s domestic political arrangement can explain important aspects of its foreign policy behavior. Democratic domestic institutions, in particular, are thought to be significant for explaining an important set of outcomes. Research shows, for example, that democracies tend to cooperate with each other; uphold their commitments; make more effective threats; engage in fewer wars with each other (but do fight non-democracies quite frequently); perform better in the wars in which they are involved; and tend to fight wars of shorter duration. Studying the impact of democratic domestic institutions on foreign policy has developed along two broad lines. The first and most established approach is rooted in the basic distinction between democracies and non-democracies. In this view, democratic institutions constrain leaders in a way that produces distinct democratic foreign policy patterns. This approach has yielded a tremendous amount of research and insight into democratic foreign policy, but also suffers from several important shortcomings. One is that democracy tends to be correlated with a host of other variables, making it difficult to specify what exactly it is about democracy that explains certain foreign policy outcomes. A second and related critique of this approach is that it tends to treat democracy uniformly when in fact there is often great variation in democratic domestic institutions across cases. A second and more recent approach focuses on the differences among democracies and seeks to explain how this variation, in turn, creates variation in foreign policy behavior. Democracies differ in terms of their underlying institutional arrangements in a variety of ways, including whether they have presidential or parliamentary systems, autonomous or constrained executives, and open or closed institutions to modulate the flow of information between leaders and citizens, among others. Even within a country, there can be a different set of institutional constraints on democratic leaders depending on the given foreign policy instrument they seek to employ. Studying these variations and their impact on policy processes and outcomes provides great promise for further unpacking the relationship between domestic democratic institutions and foreign policy.

Article

Economic Sanction as Foreign Policy  

Yoshiharu Kobayashi

Economic sanctions are an attempt by states to coerce a change in the policy of another state by restricting their economic relationship with the latter. Between, roughly, the 1960s–1980s, the question dominating the study of sanctions was whether they are an effective tool of foreign policy. Since the 1990s, however, with the introduction of large-N datasets, scholars have turned to more systematic examinations of previously little explored questions, such as when and how sanctions work, when and why states employ sanctions, and why some sanctions last longer than others. Two dominant perspectives, one based on strategic logic and the other on domestic politics, have emerged, providing starkly different answers to these questions. A growing body of evidence lends support to both strategic and domestic politics perspectives, but also points to areas in which they fall short. To complement these shortcomings, a new direction for research is to unite these perspectives into a single theoretical framework.

Article

Foreign Policy and Religion: An Overview  

Carolyn M. Warner and Stephen G. Walker

Despite the increased attention to religion in international relations, questions remain about the role of religion in the foreign policies of states. Extrapolating from theories in the fields of international relations and comparative politics is a fruitful strategy to explore religion’s potential avenues of influence on foreign policy. There are also potential methodological tools of analysis in these fields, which can be fruitfully applied to understand the role of religion in foreign policy. Contributions from the field of religion and politics may be used to frame applications of such theories as realism, constructivism, liberalism, and bounded rationality to specify further hypotheses about religion and foreign policy. The potential of these theoretical approaches from international relations to the analysis of religion has not yet been exploited fully although it is clear that there are promising signs of progress.

Article

Counterbalancing and Coups d’État  

Erica De Bruin

Counterbalancing is a coup-proofing strategy in which rulers divide the state’s coercive power among multiple, overlapping security forces to hedge against defection from the regular military. There is wide variation in the types of security forces that rulers use to counterbalance the military, including presidential guards, militarized police, and militias, as well as in the extent of counterbalancing rulers engage in. Since the late 1990s, scholars have made important strides in documenting the use of counterbalancing across countries and within them over time, and in understanding mechanisms through which it operates. Counterbalancing has become more common even as the risk of coup attempts has declined. It is most frequently employed by rulers in the Middle East and Eastern Europe, and is least likely to be used in Latin America and Western Europe. While dictators are more likely to counterbalance their militaries than democratic rulers, counterweights have also been important to stabilizing many newly democratizing states. There is also important variation among authoritarian regimes in the extent and types of counterweights employed. Counterbalancing is thought to prevent coups by making it more difficult for potential coup plotters within the military to seize power. While coup attempts are underway, counterweights might impede coordination between security forces or create incentives for resistance to a coup. Statistical analyses of counterbalancing and coup outcomes suggests there is a strong, negative association between the use of counterweights and the success of coup attempts. However, there is less evidence that counterbalancing deters coup attempts. This may be because although counterbalancing makes coups more difficult to carry out successfully, it can also generate new grievances among soldiers who must compete with other security forces for funds, arms, and recruits. As a result, efforts to establish counterweights can provoke new coup attempts. Counterbalancing has also been associated with an increased risk of other forms of political violence including repression and civil war.

Article

Foreign Policy Learning  

Guy Ziv

An improved understanding of foreign policy learning necessitates a clarification of what foreign policy learning is, who learns, and how such learning occurs. Cognitive and social psychologists, sociologists, and political scientists situated in a variety of subfields have contributed to the understanding of foreign policy learning, a multidisciplinary area of inquiry. Learning theorists seek to show how a change in an actor’s beliefs due to experience or observation can lead to changes at other units, such as organizations and within the government. This cognitive dimension is important because actors may pursue a new course of action for politically expedient reasons rather than having genuinely “learned”—a distinction referred to as “complex” vs. “simple” learning. Foreign policy learning can be internal or external. The former type of learning entails what individuals, governments, or organizations learn from their prior experience. Learning theorists who focus on the individual level of analysis borrow insights from political psychology in an effort to shed light on the personal characteristics, the belief structures, and the cognitive psychological mechanisms of political actors that can better inform policymaking. Leaders whose cognitive structures are described as relatively open and complex—like Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, whose learning brought about the dramatic changes that ultimately led to the demise of the Soviet Union—are more likely to alter their beliefs than their cognitively closed and simple counterparts. Yet external learning occurs as well. Policy diffusion studies show that learning can result from demonstration effects. Foreign policy learning via diffusion is not instrumental, but instead occurs through osmosis. Privatization in the former communist states, China’s Foreign Direct Investment liberalization, and the diffusion of environmental norms in the European Union are examples of learning that is contagious, not chosen. A more conscious mode of learning than diffusion is policy transfer, which entails policymakers’ transferring ideas from one country and implementing them in another. Technological innovations, unlike lessons that involve political ideology, are generally easier lessons to transfer—for example, Japan’s success in applying lessons from the West to modernize its army in the second half of the 19th century. The constraints to foreign policy learning are formidable. Decision makers are not always open to reconsidering views that challenge their beliefs. Leaders tend to resort to, and misuse, analogies that prevent learning. Even a change in a decision maker’s beliefs may not lead to foreign policy change, given the myriad political pressures, bureaucratic hurdles, and economic realities that often get in the way of implementing new ideas. Indeed, foreign policy learning and foreign policy change are not synonymous. Scholars face significant obstacles in studying foreign policy learning. There is no consensus on the definition of learning, on what constitutes learning, on how actors learn, when they learn, or on how to assess whether learning has taken place. Despite attempts to make sense of the confusion, scholars face the daunting challenge of improving understanding of how learning is shaped and funneled through the interaction of agents and the structures in which they are situated, as well as the relationship between learning and foreign policy change.