Foreign Policy: Theories, Actors, Cases

February 28, 2013

Editors: Steve Smith, Amelia Hadfield and Tim Dunne
Edition: Second
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Pages: 576
Price: £28.99
ISBN: 9780199596232

Foreign policy analysis (FPA) did not easily gain its present standing as a vital subfield within international relations. This reviewer’s proposal to introduce FPA at the University of Sussex in the mid-1960s provoked the dismissive response from a senior colleague (not the great Martin Wight): “but this is just the study of diplomacy”. This excellent text, now in a second edition, impressively documents how and why FPA has become a central component of international relations research and teaching.

FPA specialists had to establish convincing links between their original area of concentration - the domestic “inputs” into the externally directed “outputs” of a state’s foreign policy (mental images, bureaucratic procedures, political calculations, lobbying, public opinion and the rest) - and the vast, multifarious and often unpredictable international environment into which the state’s foreign policy actions are directed. This book’s sophisticated clarification of this relationship (part of the bigger “agency-structure problem” in international relations) is among its many major contributions.

The book splendidly applies the rousing principle that opens its foreword: “One of the great pleasures of teaching foreign policy theory is that it must always be grounded in empirical examples: the theory is of little interest unless one can utilize it in specific case studies.”

The first section surveys the historical development and theoretical dimensions of FPA, discussing in practical terms how it may relate to the major schools of thought in international relations (defined as realism, liberalism, constructivism, and discourse analysis/post-structuralism). The second section covers the “actors, contexts and goals” of foreign policy, including the complex roles of domestic actors in policy-making and their significance in specific policy areas, such as national security and “economic statecraft”. (The latter, disappointingly, concentrates on economic measures directed to political ends, and the whole volume contains little on the issues raised by the sub-field of international political economy.) Special mention should be made of the masterly general survey of FPA by Walter Carlsnaes, and the meticulous analysis by Elisabetta Brighi and Christopher Hill of “implementation and behaviour”. This considers how the “outputs” of national foreign policy have not completed their journey, but only begun it, when they encounter the challenging world outside: a “structure”, to be sure, but one that may impose constant adjustment in the implementation of policy.

Section three offers a dozen well-chosen case studies, introduced by an inspiring chapter from Steve Lamy, “Teaching foreign policy case studies”. There are examples of essentially bilateral crises (Graham Allison on the Cuban missile crisis, Gareth Stansfield on Israel and Egypt in the Yom Kippur War); of the domestic basis of war-making (George W. Bush’s and Tony Blair’s policies towards Iraq); of national responses (in Canada, India, Brazil and Australia) to external issues; and of the new, complex foreign policy endeavours of the European Union.

Who is it for?
Second- or third-year undergraduates taking FPA in a politics or international relations degree, or studying comparative policymaking.

Presentation:
Clear, comprehensive and very accessible.

Would you recommend it?
Yes, very strongly indeed.

 

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