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Explaining Foreign Policy

Don't have an account? Sign in via your Institution. Sign in with your library card. Related Articles about About Related Articles close popup. Introduction The study of foreign policy decision-making seeks to understand how states formulate and enact foreign policy. General Overview Taking a decision-making-focused approach to understanding foreign policy began as a reaction to systemic theories of international relations that examined interactions between states without much attention to actors and processes within those states.

How to Subscribe Oxford Bibliographies Online is available by subscription and perpetual access to institutions. Jump to Other Articles:. Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. Powered by: PubFactory. In such cases, decision makers must attach probabilities to each possible outcome of an action. For example, will pressuring a rival state to give ground in peace discussions work or back-fire. Some decision makers are relatively accepting of risk, whereas others are averse to risk. These factors affect the importance that decision makers place on various alternative outcomes that could result from an action.

In this regard, rationality and its application to foreign policy decision making is one of the most influential approaches to understanding contemporary international politics. Work on the role of foreign policy and bargaining further enhances our understanding of the interdependence between human agency and bureaucracies within executive decision making-units. The Bureaucratic politics model explains foreign policy in a combination of bureaucratic organizations and political actors.

Bureaucratic organizations are relevant to foreign policy as they generate outputs that structure the basis on which policy makers make decisions.


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Bureaucracies also tend to develop common attitudes and shared images which play a crucial role in framing how a particular issue is perceived by foreign policy makers 4. Leadership and Foreign Policy decision making. The effect of personality on decision-making is most vital in the realm of foreign policy formulation. It plays an essential role in determining good foreign policy as in addition to being achievable.

Leaders make foreign policy decisions based on many political factors and consequences. The influence of leadership and personality in foreign policy comprises of subjective processes, background, individual characteristics, goals and values. I agree with her when she states that, although personality can be important in adding to our understanding of foreign policy behavior; its impact is highly dependent upon the compulsions imposed by the world order as well by those upon domestic legislative structures.

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Rank in the party was not determined by elections—positions were filled through appointment by those of higher rank, who demanded unquestioning obedience to the will of the leader. Smith contends that while considering the effect of personality on foreign policy formulation, it is crucial to note the existence of certain integral conditions under which personality and individual mannerisms are unable to make a significant impact upon decision making.

In his book Explaining Foreign Policy; Jensen identifies a number of situations in which personality is likely to affect the decisional outputs of both the leader and of the fundamental environment He contends that for personality to have an ideal impact upon foreign policy decisions, the leader must display a high level of involvement in international affairs and must possess high decisional independence. In my opinion, the role of the individual is not always consistent. At times bureaucrats and politicians are required to perform dual roles; which can sometimes result in conflicting ideologies.

For example, when Tony Blair, discussed the possibility of the UK invading Iraq in he was not only involved as a Prime Minister but was also involved as a self-confessed churchgoer and a morally concerned human being. In looking at instances personality is the major determinant behind policy decisions, it is ideal to look at regions where politics is highly autocratic and unimpeded by bureaucracy.

The UAE region serves as an optimum condition for observing such an avatar of personality in foreign policy decision.

Chinese Foreign Policy and Decision Making | Center for Strategic and International Studies

In such regimes, the leader tends to operate according to personal desires and according to personal interests; unconstrained by bureaucratic constraints or opposition forces. Ahmed Aref AL Kafarneh. Journal of Law, Policy and Globalization. Moreover, the decrees are very general and lack clarification on the division of powers and jurisdiction among the different state institutions. As far as foreign policy is concerned, this enables the Presidency to monopolize decision-making in the absence of a legal framework which would constrain the executive branch.

This ambiguity and personalization of decision-making also fed by the hesitation of the bureaucratic institutions to participate in the decision and policymaking process given a widespread confusion regarding areas of jurisdiction. In theory, the advocates of the presidential system argue that the Parliament would have much to say in foreign policy-making since the foreign policy actions of the President would be audited by the Parliament. Such issues might be Kurdish issue in general and the security strategy concerning the PKK [14] more specifically.

It might also be on the case of a political solution to the Syria conflict that MHP defines from the outlook of containing Kurdish influence. In theory, non-governmental actors such as academia, civil society organizations, think-tanks, and media outlets are supposed to have a say in foreign policy in Turkey. How this actually works or not needs more exploration. Are critical voices being heard? If so, through which channels?

The state of emergency, which has been in effect since the putsch attempt on July 15 , most significantly affected media and the academy. In these conditions, it is not realistic to expect non-governmental actors to be influential in foreign policy making. Are opinions on foreign policy formulated on an institutional level or do they stem from selected advisors?

Our impression is that selected advisors from the non-government sector contribute to the understanding of different foreign policy areas and that different organizations are not contributing with their institutional knowledge regardless of political leanings. There are at least two objectives to the study of foreign policy decision-making. One is to attempt to explain already implemented foreign policy, the other is to try to predict future foreign policy directions.


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The first step in any of these objectives is to identify the structure and process of foreign policy decision-making within any given country. Therefore, it is crucial to understand the type of information he is being given by his advisors. Dominant theories of international relations have traditionally ignored the political impact of different leaders individual-level variables.

Academia today has the means to study individual personalities and leadership-style through sophisticated quantitative content analysis schemes that have proven to pass methodological reliability and validity tests. We observe this in the frequent cases where he attempts to project power beyond what Turkey is actually capable of achieving. Nonetheless, foreign policies are not made in a vacuum.

Foreign policy making bodies of any state receive inputs demands for action, values, threats, feedback from the outside world and respond to these inputs. Experience and tradition over time, in combination with basic values and norms, create a set of relative inflexible principles. Aydin [22] argues that the interplay of two kinds of variables shape Turkish foreign policy: structural variables and conjunctural variables. Structural variables are continuous and relatively static and can exert long-term influence over the determination of foreign policy goals. Structural variables include geographic position, historical experiences and cultural background, together with national stereotypes, images of other nations and continuing economic provisions.

Conjunctural variables are made up of a web of interrelated developments in domestic politics and international relations. They are dynamic and subject to change under the influence of domestic and foreign developments and exert influence on short-term foreign policy implementation. Structural variables include shifts in international power-balance, domestic political changes, and personalities of specific decision-makers.

In this project, we have started to explore structural and conjectural determinants of Turkish foreign policy.

Alex Mintz and Amnon Sofrin

We have focused on perceptions of structural determinants and worked on finding out the conjectural variables that are currently shaping foreign policy decisions. We initially focused on the structural variables identified by Aydin above. However, early in the project we found that focusing on all of these would be too comprehensive due to time and resource restrictions.

Thus, we ended up focusing on the perception of constraints and opportunities due to geographical position and national image.

Many of our interviewees declared that Turkey was surrounded by instability and conflict and that these pose a threat to the country and restrain the possibility of long-term planning, for example, developing a strategy or foreign policy doctrine. However, there are no traces of a definitive strategy to this end. Military and foreign policy do not seem founded in a grand strategy and are rather made up through tactical moves.

The different actors placed different constraints on Turkish foreign policy and the Russian and American presence in the region especially hindered the projection of Turkish military power. The Black Sea region was also put forward as an example of Russian presence. These interviewees reported that Turkish military power is diminishing, but also that the use of hard power is a rising trend and, though risky, it is likely to continue.

When we talked to interviewees about constraints and possibilities, there was usually much talk about constraints and little about possibilities. To fully understand the perception of opportunities, more interviews should be carried out. And Turkey wants to make a difference in the world and conducts itself based on these principles.

They also spoke of greatness ahead due to the Presidential system. However, currently two issues are reported that differ greatly from the perceptions of the other group.

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Understanding Foreign Policy Decision Making

The other relates to the economy when they report the downgrading of the Turkish economy as something that will weaken Turkey internationally on a humanitarian, military and international partner level. How our contacts believe other countries view Turkey became more difficult to assess. With varying degrees of emotionality, many of our interviewees portrayed the West as hostile towards Turkey; in the EU that counted for both population and leadership, in the US it was more the US institutions that were mentioned State Department, CIA, Justice Ministry.


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