Foreign policy analysis
Foreign policy analysis is a branch of political science
Political science
Political Science is a social science discipline concerned with the study of the state, government and politics. Aristotle defined it as the study of the state. It deals extensively with the theory and practice of politics, and the analysis of political systems and political behavior...

 dealing with theory development and empirical study regarding the processes and outcomes of foreign policy
Foreign policy
A country's foreign policy, also called the foreign relations policy, consists of self-interest strategies chosen by the state to safeguard its national interests and to achieve its goals within international relations milieu. The approaches are strategically employed to interact with other countries...


Foreign Policy Analysis (journal) is also the name of a peer reviewed academic journal
Academic journal
An academic journal is a peer-reviewed periodical in which scholarship relating to a particular academic discipline is published. Academic journals serve as forums for the introduction and presentation for scrutiny of new research, and the critique of existing research...

 that publishes papers on foreign policy.


Foreign policy analysis involves the study of how a state
Sovereign state
A sovereign state, or simply, state, is a state with a defined territory on which it exercises internal and external sovereignty, a permanent population, a government, and the capacity to enter into relations with other sovereign states. It is also normally understood to be a state which is neither...

 makes foreign policy.
As it will be analyzing the decision making process, FPA involves the study of both international and domestic politics. FPA also draws upon the study of diplomacy
Diplomacy is the art and practice of conducting negotiations between representatives of groups or states...

, war
War is a state of organized, armed, and often prolonged conflict carried on between states, nations, or other parties typified by extreme aggression, social disruption, and usually high mortality. War should be understood as an actual, intentional and widespread armed conflict between political...

, intergovernmental organisations, and economic sanctions
Economic sanctions
Economic sanctions are domestic penalties applied by one country on another for a variety of reasons. Economic sanctions include, but are not limited to, tariffs, trade barriers, import duties, and import or export quotas...

, each of which are means by which a state may implement foreign policy. In academia, foreign policy analysis is most commonly taught within the disciplines of public policy within political science
Political science
Political Science is a social science discipline concerned with the study of the state, government and politics. Aristotle defined it as the study of the state. It deals extensively with the theory and practice of politics, and the analysis of political systems and political behavior...

 or political studies, and study of international relations
International relations
International relations is the study of relationships between countries, including the roles of states, inter-governmental organizations , international nongovernmental organizations , non-governmental organizations and multinational corporations...

. FPA to be considered also as a sub-field of the study of international relations which is aiming to understand the processes beyond foreign policy decision making. The most prominent scholars in this field of study are Snyder, Rosenau, and Allison.

According to, "As a field of study, foreign policy analysis is characterized by its actor-specific focus. In the simplest terms, it is the study of the process, effects, causes, or outputs of foreign policy decision-making in either a comparative or case-specific manner. The underlying and often implicit argument theorizes that human beings, acting as a group or within a group, compose and cause change in international politics."

Stages in decision making

The making of foreign policy involves a number of stages:
  • Assessment of the international and domestic political environment - Foreign policy is made and implemented within an international and domestic political context, which must be understood by a state in order to determine the best foreign policy option. For example, a state may need to respond to an international crisis
    International crisis
    An international crisis is a crisis between states. There are many definitions of an international crisis. Snyder "...a sequence of interactions between the governments of two or more sovereign states in severe conflict, short of actual war, but involving the perception of a dangerously high...

  • Goal setting - A state has multiple foreign policy goals. A state must determine which goal is affected by the international and domestic political environment at any given time. In addition, foreign policy goals may conflict, which will require the state to prioritise.
  • Determination of policy options - A state must then determine what policy options are available to meet the goal or goals set in light of the political environment. This will involve an assessment of the state's capacity to implement policy options and an assessment of the consequences of each policy option.
  • Formal decision making action - A formal foreign policy decision will be taken at some level within a government. Foreign policy decisions are usually made by the executive branch of government. Common governmental actors or institutions which make foreign policy decisions include: the head of state
    Head of State
    A head of state is the individual that serves as the chief public representative of a monarchy, republic, federation, commonwealth or other kind of state. His or her role generally includes legitimizing the state and exercising the political powers, functions, and duties granted to the head of...

     (such as a president
    A president is a leader of an organization, company, trade union, university, or country.Etymologically, a president is one who presides, who sits in leadership...

    ) or head of government
    Head of government
    Head of government is the chief officer of the executive branch of a government, often presiding over a cabinet. In a parliamentary system, the head of government is often styled prime minister, chief minister, premier, etc...

     (such as a prime minister
    Prime minister
    A prime minister is the most senior minister of cabinet in the executive branch of government in a parliamentary system. In many systems, the prime minister selects and may dismiss other members of the cabinet, and allocates posts to members within the government. In most systems, the prime...

    ), cabinet
    Cabinet (government)
    A Cabinet is a body of high ranking government officials, typically representing the executive branch. It can also sometimes be referred to as the Council of Ministers, an Executive Council, or an Executive Committee.- Overview :...

    , or minister
    Minister (government)
    A minister is a politician who holds significant public office in a national or regional government. Senior ministers are members of the cabinet....

  • Implementation of chosen policy option - Once a foreign policy option has been chosen, and a formal decision has been made, then the policy must be implemented. Foreign policy is most commonly implemented by specialist foreign policy arms of the state bureaucracy, such as a Ministry of Foreign Affairs or State Department. Other departments may also have a role in implementing foreign policy, such as departments for: trade
    International trade
    International trade is the exchange of capital, goods, and services across international borders or territories. In most countries, such trade represents a significant share of gross domestic product...

    , defence, and aid
    In international relations, aid is a voluntary transfer of resources from one country to another, given at least partly with the objective of benefiting the recipient country....


Rational actor model

The rational actor model is based on rational choice theory
Rational choice theory
Rational choice theory, also known as choice theory or rational action theory, is a framework for understanding and often formally modeling social and economic behavior. It is the main theoretical paradigm in the currently-dominant school of microeconomics...

. The model adopts the state as the primary unit of analysis, and inter-state relations (or international relations) as the context for analysis. The state is seen as a monolithic unitary actor, capable of making rational decisions based on preference ranking and value maximisation.
According to the rational actor model, a rational decision making process is used by a state. This process includes:
  • Goal setting and ranking.
  • Consideration of options.
  • Assessment of consequences.
  • Profit-maximization.

The rational actor model has been subject to criticism. The model tends to neglect a range of political variables, of which Michael Clarke includes: "political decisions, non-political decisions, bureaucratic procedures, continuations of previous policy, and sheer accident."

Bureaucratic Politics Model

In this model the state is not seen as a monolithic unitary actor. Instead it is a collection of different bureaucracies vying for increasing their funding and size. Things are often viewed as a zero sum game where one bureaucracies' "win" or increasing their level of funding is seen as a loss for another bureaucracy. Here decisions are made by bureaucracies competing against each other and suggesting solutions to problems that would involve using their resources so as to increase their level of importance.

Organizational Process Model

In this model different bureaucracies have different standard operating procedures. These procedures are made in order to allow day to day operations to be carried out. Oftentimes an order or decision will have to work around these standard procedures. It is often exceedingly difficult for a bureaucracy to do something "out of character" or contrary to their standard procedures.

Other models

  • Inter-branch politics model
  • Self-aggrandizement model- In this model one leader acts on behalf of his or her interests.
  • Political process model- In this model the decision making body is effected by many non-governmental actors such as NGOs or the media.


  • Council on Foreign Relations
    Council on Foreign Relations
    The Council on Foreign Relations is an American nonprofit nonpartisan membership organization, publisher, and think tank specializing in U.S. foreign policy and international affairs...

  • Chatham House
    Chatham House
    Chatham House, formally known as The Royal Institute of International Affairs, is a non-profit, non-governmental organization based in London whose mission is to analyse and promote the understanding of major international issues and current affairs. It is regarded as one of the world's leading...

  • American Enterprise Institute
    American Enterprise Institute
    The American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research is a conservative think tank founded in 1943. Its stated mission is "to defend the principles and improve the institutions of American freedom and democratic capitalism—limited government, private enterprise, individual liberty and...

  • Brookings Institution
    Brookings Institution
    The Brookings Institution is a nonprofit public policy organization based in Washington, D.C., in the United States. One of Washington's oldest think tanks, Brookings conducts research and education in the social sciences, primarily in economics, metropolitan policy, governance, foreign policy, and...

  • Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars
    Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars
    The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars , located in Washington, D.C., is a United States Presidential Memorial that was established as part of the Smithsonian Institution by an act of Congress in 1968...

External links

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