Term paper on Theories of Foreign Policy Decision

Bureaucratic decision making model was introduced by Graham Allison (1969) and is seen as of the most conspicuous decision-making alternatives in international relations. This model focuses on internal political decisions. Where structural theories deny that factors outside the state shape behavior in diplomatic relations area, bureaucratic decision making model argues that international policy is simply the unintentional set of political activities. With respect to this model, we should note that individual self-interest of interest groups or bureaucratic decision makers governs foreign policy decision-making procedure. Consequently, variations of foreign policy actions vary from state to state. Not all the theorists admit that there should be such notion as a national interest. Three factors that explain how internal mechanisms of the state influence diplomatic relations can be suggested here. The first factor insists that organizational roles push decision makers to focus on their individual interests. The second factor deals with the problem which emerges when power is decentralized within states, though this condition is mandatory for all type of regimes. Third factor deals with standard operating procedures, which are also necessary because bounded rationality might result in poor outcomes.

Bureaucratic decision making model presupposes following one’s individual interests. If the head of the state makes decisions guided by his/her own interests then other administrative agencies tend to pursue their own interests as well. As we see, it leads to the dissociation within the state governing system. Every agent tries to achieve his/her own goals individually. Each institution will tend to show their influence on the state of international affairs and demonstrate their power in various ways.

In a “thick” bureaucratic decision making model powerful individual decision makers will stick to “hard-line” proposals. Such strategy will usually demand demonstration of force and budget capabilities. Meanwhile, other less powerful institutions will stand for softer proposals, usually relying on negotiation and diplomatic decisions.

“Thick” bureaucratic decision making model may combine force demonstration with diplomatic alternatives. However, a more “thin” bureaucratic decision making model prevails in modern international relations policy. We should admit that bureaucratic decision makers will rank their preferences independently from the institution they represent. In this model we have several actor who tend to maximize their objectives together with the state leader, thus, foreign policy strategy appears to be a complicated problem under such circumstances. The outcomes of decision making related to this model may be the results of compromising, confusing and chaotic interaction of actors. One of the problems that a state leader might face is his distorting of political decisions. It results from his being not able to control and perform a number of functions within the institution. The ability to bend policy involves two important factors monitoring and knowledge. The decision maker is a specialist and he influences political choice. In case the actor is not competent enough he may engage other specialists. But in most cases the leader dominated in decision making process. Though, a problem may arise if the principal does not possess enough time or knowledge to monitor his agent’s actions. Thus, he can not be sure that his agent is working for the sake of these preferences and interprets. He can be easily mislead or obtain false information and data. This can become a way to manipulating the leader. One possible way out may be relying on more than one agents and getting different points of view and options. However, the leader can discipline his agents and manage controlling their behavior. Here we should pay attention to the institutional and information environments.

Bureaucratic decision making model presupposes that tasks should be decentralized to save time on their accomplishment and institutions of all kind are not allowed to treat every routine situation as new and unique. Standard operating procedures in terms of the model are usually followed by the leaders and their agents. Having a standardized decision making procedure for most of international politics challenges can become very effective strategy of decision making. Most bureaucratic actors rely on this strategy because they follow the principles of bounded rationality.

Bureaucratic decision making model can also be referred as the governmental model. Mitz and DeRouen (2010) explain: ”this models looks at how decisions involving various bureaucracies can elicit political competition” (p. 71). The key concept of this model is that there is no structured plan of actions and decisions result from political debates, struggles and power demonstrating. Thus, decisions related to foreign policy issues function in free political space and do not follow any strict decision procedure which represents a set of formal commands. The actors engaged into this model of decision making are individuals who guide various institutions and each actor focuses on maximizing his own interests, preferences and objectives. Bureaucratic decision making model presupposes multiple organizations and bureaucracies instead of one actor. Bureaucracies represent ranked organizations that pursue their own interest s and struggle for the control of various areas of international policy. These organizations may involve specialist in a particular area of politics which the institution try to keep under its control. Here decision makers face a number of complicated tasks, for example, they have to negotiate with each other before they present the set of options the executive. Negotiations can shape the information which will be presented to the leader and some available additional information may be restricted from the leader as well.

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