I. Introduction to the Decision: An Abstract - A brief description of the action taken by the government to try and deal with the problem facing decision makers at the time.
II. The Explanation of the Foreign Policy Action
A. Identification of the Problem - What was the problem as the policy makers saw it? What were its central features and what was at issue, precisely?
B. The Type of Problem - Identify what kind of problem it was (crisis, etc.) and how this influenced (i.e., pressured) policy makers.
C. Precipitating Event or Stimulus - What was the specific event or chain of events that led to the development of the crisis?
D. Background to the Problem - A historical and analytic analysis of the events and conditions that led to the problem being considered.
E. Policy Purposes of the Decisionmakers: Instrumental and Ultimate - Identify the long-term, overarching (ultimate) goals of the country and the immediate goals (instrumental) as they pertain to the decision/crisis under consideration.
F. The Action Decision - What is the policy action that was chosen as the way to deal with the problem? What alternatives were considered and why were they rejected?
G. The Belief System/Causal Factors in the Decision - What aspects of the decision makerís belief systems (values, norms, images, etc.) can be directly connected to the purposes and choices of the policy action under study?
H. Influences on the Choice
1. Domestic Influences
a. Partisan Politics - This refers to the struggle between parties not part of the administration or government (i.e., political parties, democrats, republicans, greens, Tories, labor, etc.) and the role the concerns surrounding this struggle played in the decisionmaking process.
b. Bureaucratic Politics - What kind of administration is in place and what kind of power struggle is taking place among the various involved bureaucracies within the administration or regime? How did this influence the decision make by policy makers?
c. Societal (Objective) Conditions - Look at the socioeconomic and sociopolitical conditions of the country at the time of the decision to determine what impact they may have had on the decision.
d. The Influence of the Past - How did past decisions/relationships impact the decision that was made?
e. The Influence of the Media - How did the media coverage/non-coverage of the event influence the action taken by the government?
2. International Influences - How did policy makerís view the position of other countries in the international system? Were enemies/allies considered?
J. Policy Outcome - Describe, briefly, the immediate outcome of the policy action taken.
A. Instrumental: Stated Objective Accomplished? - Determine the success or failure of the policy by examining the costs and benefits of the policy implemented.
B. The Interpretational: Patterns of Action - Were there recurrent patterns of foreign policy behavior, either through time in regards to your country or through type, in the sense of your country as one of a group of countries about which generalizations can be made? Attempt to relate this to a theory of foreign policy decisionmaking.
C. The Judgmental: Subjective Assessment - How well did the action taken measure up to the professed ideals of the nation under study? Finally, apply your own ethical and moral standards to an assessment of the action.
Return to IR325 homepage.