Foreign Policy Analysis

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Sir Henry Wotton, King James I’s ambassador to Venice, was famous for his wisecrack that “an ambassador is an honest man, sent to lie abroad for the good of his country”. Few people remember that he was relieved of his duties after the King heard about it.



Definition FP defined as the product of the way it is made, i.e. the process is important?

The legal power of a nation through sovereignty to conduct its external affairs External sovereignty and international law, De jure sovereignty, diplomatic recognition ; De facto elements of sovereign independence e.g. political, military, and econmic autonomy ; International treaties and agreements.


See Decision-making.


Power and capabilities

Power-based theories. What power means in the daily practice of diplomacy, resources,capabilties, implementation, the use of force.

Instrument and techniques

Diplomacy e.g. use for negotiation of international disputes ; Military, economic, cultural subversive instruments ; How much can be done with how little? Target groups governments, elites, masses.

Influences on foreign policy

The domestic environment: material context

Geography, natural resources, economic development; communications; problems of determinism.

The primacy of domestic forces? Structural approaches

Class and elite theories of foreign policy; the impact of political culture and types of regime; the comparative foreign policy approach and the attempt to correlate behavour with types of regime; economic imperatives and the connections with the debates over imperialism and fascism.

There is an interesting aspect stemming from the structuralist approach in international relations. If the foreign policy of all states is determined by the structure of the international system, as they contend, the domestic structure would not matter. The structuralists/realists coming from that perspective would therefore also dismiss this domestic structural approach for instance the democratic peace theory. This contends that the domestic political structure determines propensity to international bellicose policies. Democratic states, through inductive experience, are less inclined to start wars with other democractic states.

Why do they not go to war against each other? Coincidence? Because they are wealthy and trade? Common enemy?

Kant 1795 Perpetual Peace, felt that public opinion restrains the freedom of rulers of demcoractic states to wage war, because the mass public would have to supply the soldiers and bear the human and financial costs of the war. This show of structural institutinal constraints.

The other explanation, through the use of social constructivism, relies on an analysis of the political domestic culture. Social constructivism as such does not provide a theory of international relations. Rather it provides a set of assumption of what it is we theorise about in IR. Social rather than material structures constitute actors. The structures we see in IR are thus constructed by individuals. As a result, anarchy and self-help in IR are not unavoidable.

Social constructivism can show a link between domestic norms and international behaviour. Perceptions are important in this regard. Norms are communicated internationally through the domestic behaviour of a particular state. Leaders of democratic states can thus communicate their peaceful intentions to each other and extend their problem-solving teachniques to the international realm.

Domestic constraints : the pluralist approach

Interest-groups; avenues of public influence; the roles of press and television; constitutional structures; political parties; types of issue and forms of influence; competing domestic priorities.

The external environment: Political constraints

The international economic system; the geo-political context: the international system, the strategic habitat, the networks of allies, adversaries, blocs, institutions; international law as a constraint on foreign policy.

Transnational perspectives

Foreign policy in relation to other concepts in political science

Various types of relationships among political regimes

Imperial system, imperial power and colonial dependency.

Legally equal nation states, leagues, confederations, and commonwealths.

Normative FP Who is a normative foreign policy actor ? : the European Union and its global partners / edited by Nathalie Tocci ; contributors: Daniel S. Hamilton ... [et al.]. Centre for European Policy Studies, 2008.


Diplomacy as the mundande technocratic, vs. diplomacy as the sublime. Iver B. Neumann, "Sublime Diplomacy: Byzantine, Early Modern, Contemporary". Millennium: Journal of International Studies 34 (3). Edmund Burke.

Neumann : "Let us juxtapose what Longinus has to say about the sublime in literature to a contemporary Byzantine practice, diplomacy. After the fall of Rome, the key challenge to Byzantium was to maintain a set of relations between itself and sundry neighbours that embodied and so maintained its imperial status. These neighbours included the Germanic peoples, the Visigoths in Spain, the Franks and the Lombards, the Huns and the Avars, the Bulgars and the Slavs and also the Arabs. They all lacked a key resource that Byzantium had taken over from Rome, namely a formalised legal structure that could shore up their claim to being an ordered political entity. As the Byzantine historian Evangelos Chrysos points out, when these peoples achieved settlements and set about forging formal political institutions, they were dependent on the empire. The road was open for Byzantine diplomacy to draw them into a network of international and inter-state relations which was controlled by the empire. This process revolved around treaty-making, and the treaties often had a formative character for the new states.9 Chrysos postulates a three-layered process at work.10 First, the new ruler was welcomed into the family of kings.11 Secondly, there was an assimilation of Byzantine social attitudes and values. Thirdly, and as a formalization of the second layer of the process, there were laws. In order to drive this process, the Byzantines availed themselves of a number of, mostly diplomatic, practices. For example, embassies to Constantinople would often stay on for years. A member of other royal houses would routinely be requested to stay on in Constantinople, not only as a potential hostage, but also as a useful pawn in case political conditions where he came from changed. A key practice, however, was to overwhelm visitors by sumptuous displays. "

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