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Foreign Policy

CHAPTER FOUR

International Relations 10/e


Goldstein and Pevehouse
Pearson Education, Inc.
© 2012 Joshua S. Goldstein and Jon C. Pevehouse

© 2012 Joshua S. Goldstein and Jon C. Pevehouse


Foreign Policy as Decision Making
• Foreign policy process is best understood as a
process of decision making.
- Actions result from decisions made by leaders.
- Decision making: steering process: adjustments made
as a result of feedback from the outside world.
- Decisions carried out: actions taken to change the world,
and then information from the world is monitored to
evaluate the effects of these actions.
• Evaluations of previous actions go into the next round of
foreign policy decisions.

© 2012 Joshua S. Goldstein and Jon C. Pevehouse


Foreign Policy as Decision Making

© 2012 Joshua S. Goldstein and Jon C. Pevehouse


The Rational Model
• A common starting point for studying the decision-
making process is the “Rational Model.”
- Decision makers set goals
- Evaluate their relative importance
- Calculate the costs and benefits of each possible action
- Choose the one with highest benefits and lowest costs
• The choice may be complicated by uncertainty about
the costs and benefits of various actions or by the
relative risk tolerance of the decision maker.

© 2012 Joshua S. Goldstein and Jon C. Pevehouse


Foreign Policy as Decision Making

© 2012 Joshua S. Goldstein and Jon C. Pevehouse


Alternatives to the Rational Model
• One alternative model of foreign policy decision
making is the Organizational Process Model.
- Decision makers often skip the labor-intensive process of
identifying goals and alternative actions, relying instead for
most decisions on standardized responses or standard
operating procedures.
- Low-level decision makers apply general principles to
make the least controversial, most standardized decision.
- The organizational process model implies that much of
foreign policy results from “management by muddling through.”
- Example: the US State Department (Foreign Ministry) daily has
to deal with thousands of all their abroad US embassy inquiries
© 2012 Joshua S. Goldstein and Jon C. Pevehouse
Alternatives to the Rational Model
• Another alternative model of foreign policy decision
making is the Government Bargaining model, also
called by the name of Bureaucratic Politics model.
- Foreign policy decisions result from the bargaining
process among various government agencies with
somewhat divergent interests in the outcome.
- According to the government bargaining model, foreign
policy decisions reflect (a mix of) the interests of state
agencies.
- Example: Japanese Foreign and Trade ministries over
the decision to allow sushi imports from California.
© 2012 Joshua S. Goldstein and Jon C. Pevehouse
Individual Decision Makers
• Beyond individual idiosyncrasies, individual
decision making diverges from the rational model
in at least three systematic ways:
1) Decision makers suffer from information limits like:
a) misperceptions (taking in the wrong information),
b) selective perceptions (taking in only some kinds of
information), and
c) information screens (subconscious filtering of the
information)
when collecting information on the consequences of
their choices.
© 2012 Joshua S. Goldstein and Jon C. Pevehouse
Individual Decision Makers
2) Cognitive biases: systematic distortions of
rational calculations based not on emotional
feelings but simply on the limitations of the human
brain in making choices, such as:
- Cognitive balance (effort to maintain mental models)
- Justification of effort (Example: USA continuing to fight the
Vietnam War 1968, even when it was clearly lost)
- Wishful thinking (overestimating the chances of the desired
result)
- Mirror image / Projection (“We are… So they also are…”)
- Historical analogies (“Vietnam Syndrome” until recently)
© 2012 Joshua S. Goldstein and Jon C. Pevehouse
Individual Decision Makers
3) Affective Biases: The rationality of individual
cost-benefit calculations is undermined by
emotions that decision makers feel while
thinking about the consequences of their
actions. (Positive or Negative Affect: liking or
disliking someone)

© 2012 Joshua S. Goldstein and Jon C. Pevehouse


Individual Decision Makers
• Two specific modifications of the rational model of
decision making have been proposed to
accommodate psychological realities:
• Bounded Rationality
- Takes into account the costs of seeking and processing
information
- Time constraints → no more optimizing , just satisficing
• Prospect Theory
- Decision makers go through two phases: editing phase
and evaluation phase.
- Evaluations take place compared to a reference point
(status quo, past, or expected situation).
© 2012 Joshua S. Goldstein and Jon C. Pevehouse
Group Psychology
• Group dynamics can be a promoter of state interests
(balance blind spots and biases of the individual), but
they can also introduce new sources of irrationality
into the decision-making process.
• Groupthink
- Refers to the tendency for groups to reach decisions
without accurately assessing their consequences,
because individual members tend to go along with ideas
they think the others support
- Groups tend to be overly optimistic about the chances
of success and are thus more willing to take risks.
© 2012 Joshua S. Goldstein and Jon C. Pevehouse
© 2012 Joshua S. Goldstein and Jon C. Pevehouse
Crisis Management
• Crises are foreign policy situations in which
outcomes are very important and time frames are
compressed.
• Harder to understand and predict than normal
foreign policy making
- Tremendous time constraints (US government pizza
deliveries to national agencies in times of crisis meetings)
- Severe psychological stress (Rabin’s day off during battle)
- Groupthink (Kennedy leaving room during Cuban crisis)

© 2012 Joshua S. Goldstein and Jon C. Pevehouse


Crisis Management
• Whether in crisis mode or normal routines,
individual decision makers do not operate alone.
- Decisions shaped by the government and society in
which they work.
- Foreign policy constrained and shaped by sub-state
actors.
• Foreign policy: complex outcome of a complex
process

© 2012 Joshua S. Goldstein and Jon C. Pevehouse