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Foreign Policy

the strategy or approach chosen by the national government to achieve its goals in relations with external entities. Includes decisions to do nothing. How a country chooses to project its power abroad; is a process with an outcome. Emanates from domestic influences.


thought process of selecting a logical choice from a set of options; 2nd component of foreign policy and is class specific (permanent or regime); difficult because
a single decision making process doesn't exist, models tend to oversimplify the situation but is necessary as a tool to gain insight

The national interest

interest of a state based on the public's ideas or a particular leader in power; influenced by culture and history, affects cognition and structure, especially conflict resolution

Foreign policy actors

states, individuals, and organizations such as NGOs, IGOs, MNCs, that make and affect foreign policy

Foreign policy analysis

subfield of international relations that seeks to explain foreign policy, or, alternatively, foreign policy behavior, with reference to the theoretical ground of human decision makers, acting singly and in groups

The international system

Set of rules and norms by which all major traditional actors abide. Can be defined by realism or liberalism


decision maker selects the alternative that is "good enough" but not necessarily the best

Bounded rationality

rationality of individuals is limited by the information they have, the cognitive limitations of their minds, and the finite amount of time they have to make a decision. Leads to satisficing; offshoot of rational actor, works to minimize losses instead of maximize gains.

Disjointed incrementalism

policymakers separate their decision problems into small segments that enable them to make incremental or marginal (rather than far-reaching) choices. Leads to short term fixes, rather than completely solving the problem; does not favor radical change, based on precedent; decisions are done piece meal without thinking of long term goals or consequences


We minimize complexity and uncertainty by keeping variables within tolerable ranges, eliminating variety, ignoring elaborate calculations, and tracking a few simple feedback variables. Somewhat like going with "what your gut tells you"

Poly-heuristic decision-making

Policy makers adopt more than one decision rule in making foreign policy decisions. Begin with an "avoid a major loss principle" that stresses the importance of domestic considerations in surveying initial options. Then evaluate the remaining options in terms of what offers the best net gain in terms of values they hold to be most important.

organizational process

uses a set of SOP's to make decisions, decision-making responsibility is based upon the division into specific organizations. Issues are that there aren't SOP's for every situation, inflexible and blunt. Primary actors are organizations, and SOPs limit choices of leaders.

Bureaucratic politics

bargaining games between governmental organizations, sees decision making as conflict-resolution rather than problem solving. Problems are hard to solve because everyone has their own opinion and amount of power, making problems hard to define. Not everyone participates in every problem.

Prospect theory

Individuals do not weigh all outcomes and select the strategy that will offer the highest expected utility. Instead they tend to value what they have more than what they do not have. Leads them to value the status quo and be risk aversion with respect to gains and risk accepting when it comes to losses. After a loss, excessive risk to recover previous decision. 2 phases: 1. edit alternatives 2. evaluate edited prospects.

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